Dec. 20, 2008
Washington's star senior revived after a slow start in his first game in nine days to score 17 points and lead the Huskies easily past literally stranded Eastern Washington 83-50 on Saturday night.
The game was played before about 1,500 fans in a scrimmage-like setting because of snow and wind that shut down much of usually temperate Seattle and left the Huskies (7-3) to create its own energy.
Freshman Isaiah Thomas, who added 13 points, said he never played before a crowd that small when he was a phenom at Curtis High School in University Place, Wash.
"It was the emptiest I've seen it. Just a weird feeling," said Brockman, a senior who sported the first facial hair of his life _ a fresh goatee that he thinks Mom will order shaved soon.
Maybe he should ditch the look.
He missed five of his first six shots after missing the previous win over Portland State because of the ankle he turned in practice last weekend. And the nation's leading returning rebounder had a season-low five boards. But he scored 12 points in the second half, padding the rout.
Justin Dentmon also had 13 points for Washington, which has won five consecutive games against lightly regarded competition. It has three more soft opponents before the Pac-10 season begins Jan. 3 at archrival Washington State.
Chris Busch scored 13 points for the Eagles (6-5), who lost for the third consecutive time. They were then left without a way home to Cheney after the game, or a place to stay in Seattle in the meantime.
Two different bus companies refused to drive the Eagles through the blizzard in Cascade Mountains late Saturday night. And the hotel where the team had stayed Friday in Seattle was sold out Saturday night, leaving EWU's home game against Evergreen State College of Olympia on Monday in doubt.
"You know anybody who can take us?" Eastern coach Kirk Earlywine said, only half-jokingly.
"They got wrestling mats around here?" he added, sweeping his hand across the floor of Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Eastern Washington had injured leading scorer Benny Valentine on the bench for the entire first half for an unspecified offense. The transfer from Texas Tech, who was averaging 16.8 points per game, was wincing with an apparent injury to his left leg while starting the second half. Eastern was down 42-22 by then.
Earlywine would only say, three times and without elaboration, that a "coach's decision" put Valentine on the bench. The coach didn't know anything about an injury.
Eastern had earlier beaten Portland, which beat Washington in the season opener last month. And the team picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky Conference this season was tied at 15 with UW on a pull-up jumper by Trey Gross midway through the period.
But then EWU missed 10 of its next 11 shots and had three turnovers. Washington capitalized by scoring 21 of the game's next 24 points. The decisive run ended with a 3-pointer by Dentmon, two free throws by Thomas and a slashing basket inside by Dentmon.
The Huskies were up 36-18 with 3 minutes left in the opening half. And that was that.
The Huskies were 21-for-35 from the free-throw line, compared to just 1-for-6 for EWU. Eastern's first made free throw came with just over three minutes left.
"You'd have to ask the officials," Earlywine said of the disparity.
The game had the feel of an open workout, as the storm conspired with Washington students' winter break and holiday activities to keep the actual crowd far below the official attendance of 7,401, which was based on tickets sold.
There was no band and no cheerleaders. Advisers to both units decided hours before the game that travel conditions were too treacherous to staff the game. A Santa Claus passed out candy to the small crowd and served as fill-in entertainment at halftime.
When the UW public address announcer was introducing a lucky-seat giveaway promotion during the game's first time out, he said normally two fans are chosen by seat number to move down to better seats.
"Tonight, everyone seated in the upper bowl is invited to sit in the lower section!" Eric Radovich announced.
The relative few yelled in approval and moved down.
"I felt like grabbing the mike and saying, 'Hey, all you that came out, we really appreciate you!'" Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.