Nov. 15, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) - Spencer Hawes helped the young Washington Huskies pass their first test of the season.
Hawes scored 16 points and had a key blocked shot late in his third collegiate game to rally his No. 17 Huskies past Northern Iowa 70-61 in the finale of the Basketball Travelers Classic on Tuesday night.
"We are missing the boat if we don't take advantage of his abilities," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Northern Iowa (2-1) led by as many as eight points in the first half. But tournament MVP Justin Dentmon, who led the Huskies (3-0) with 17 points, sank four clinching free throws in the final 34 seconds. That's how Washington narrowly escaped its first non-conference home loss since Dec. 3, 2003, to Gonzaga.
"There were a lot of points tonight where we needed someone to step up and do something," said Hawes, who is one of nine freshman and sophomores on Washington's 13-man roster.
After following consecutive runaways from Pepperdine and Nicholls State this week, the Huskies faced their first test.
Grant Stout led the Panthers with 17 points. But the preseason selection for All-Missouri Valley Conference missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw chance with 28 seconds left and Washington leading 66-60. Dentmon then made the final two of his sealing free throws.
Eric Coleman added 16 points before also fouling out with 1:21 remaining and his Panthers down by four. Northern Iowa, returning three starters from last season's 23-10 team that qualified for the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive time, were picked to finish fifth this season in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"We came out here and pretty much gave them everything they could handle," Coleman said. "It's more disappointment than anything, because we thought that we should win that game."
Washington trailed for most of the game, but Ryan Appleby hit a deep 3-pointer with two seconds left on the shot clock to put the Huskies ahead by four with 3:20 to go.
Hawes, who also had seven rebounds, then excited the soldout crowd. After he made two free throws with 2:31 left, he blocked Coleman's shot in the low post. Hawes' third block of the game sparked a fastbreak layup from Dentmon and Washington's largest lead to that point, 62-56.
"I think I made the right play," Coleman said of his decisive spin on Hawes. "I had him beat, he made a good play. That's pretty much that."
Hawes' hands bedeviled Northern Iowa on both ends.
"If it wasn't the hook shot, it was the turnaround. If it wasn't the left hand, it was the right hand," said Ben Jacobson, the Panthers' first-year coach after five seasons as their top assistant.
"He's really good. He's as good as advertised."
So was rugged Northern Iowa. The Panthers are now 5-3 against Top 25 teams since the 2003-04 season.
Washington shot just 43 percent against a tight, man-to-man defense that was seventh in the nation in points allowed last season. The Huskies made 54 percent over their first two blowout wins of the season while scoring 99 and 102 points against Pepperdine and Nicholls State.
Jon Brockman, Washington's leading scorer through the first two games, had just two points and then got his third foul early in the second half. After he returned with about 10 minutes to go, the Panthers successfully attacked Brockman inside. He fouled out with 28 seconds left and scored just 7 points.
Northern Iowa controlled the first half and had a 31-28 lead at halftime largely because its big men - specifically Coleman - continually beat Washington down court for easy baskets.
"We're not there yet - but we've got a chance to get there," said Romar, whose Huskies have advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament in each of the last two springs.
"Some teams, you have no chance to get there. But we have a chance."