Jan. 22, 2009
Justin Dentmon barked loudest again on Thursday night. The senior point guard rescued Washington from its own mistakes and a rare off night by its leader, scoring 22 points with former star Brandon Roy watching and nodding approvingly from the third row as the surprising Huskies beat Southern California 78-73.
Next for Washington (14-4, 5-1 Pac-10): a showdown Saturday with No. 13 UCLA (15-3, 5-1) for the Pac-10 lead.
"Really, I want the ball at the end of games," said Dentmon, who has had an erratic career since a splashy debut season but had his third 20-point night in four games. "I want to be a leader on the floor. I want to show I'm not scared to step up in big games, not scared to step up when I'm needed."
He was against the banging Trojans.
Brockman, the UW's rugged All-America candidate, had 13 rebounds but scored a season-low four points and finished without a field goal for the first time since the NCAA tournament in his freshman season. Yet dynamic freshman Isaiah Thomas, the team's co-leader with Brockman in scoring coming in, scored 16 of his 17 points in the second half to aid Dentmon.
The Huskies won for the 12th time in 13 games and are off to their best start in four years.
"When you have 18 turnovers like we did and shoot 37 percent like we did and still win the game, I'm very proud of our guys," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said, before noting Brockman was 0-for-8 from the field in 33 frustrating minutes.
"It definitely makes a statement about what this team is," Romar said. "Say what you want, or what you've said in the past _ Justin Dentmon is having a tremendous senior season. He stepped up big tonight. That's what you count on seniors to do."
Daniel Hackett scored a season-high 24 points and prized freshman DeMar DeRozan added 16, but just four after halftime, for the Trojans (12-6, 3-4). They lost for the third time in five games.
USC was without leading scorer Dwight Lewis, who has an ankle injury. Freshman Leonard Washington replaced him and scored just 2 points on 1-for-8 shooting before fouling out.
"Dwight Lewis is one of the top scorers on the team and he makes a lot of stuff come easy for us on the offense, a lot of stuff is run through Dwight," DeRozan said. "Tonight is the first night playing without him and it was tough. It was hard to adjust."
The sloppy, sputtering game of whistles and mistakes turned when DeRozan got his fourth foul midway through the second half. He arrived late and knocked Dentmon into the Huskies' bench as Dentmon swished a 3-pointer, though DeRozan said Dentmon forced the contact by sticking out his leg and falling down.
The 4-point play put Washington up 53-44 with 9:52 remaining, and a crowd already jazzed by the pregame ceremony retiring Roy's jersey number was roaring again.
Roy, the Portland Trail Blazers All-Star who led the Huskies to three consecutive NCAA tournaments ending in 2006, joined 1950s scoring machine Bob Houbregs as the only Washington players to have their numbers retired in the 107-season history of the program.
USC didn't get within six points of Washington after Dentmon's crushing play, until a cosmetic 3-pointer by Hackett with 4 seconds left.
DeRozan went 15½ minutes without scoring in the second half, though he did score in double-figures for the 13th consecutive game.
"I think frustration kicked in," he said. "(I) lost the rhythm of the game."
USC seemed fortunate to be down only 31-30 at the half, when Hackett swished a 30-footer at the buzzer. Then again, Washington seemed lucky to be up with Brockman and Thomas having just one point each in the opening half.
Trojans coach Tim Floyd ripped off his sports coat early and berated the officials throughout, perhaps with good reason.
Washington was 32-for-40 from the foul line. USC was 13-for-17. That's how the team that had eight more field goals lost.
"I'll have to look at the film, because we played zone for 30 minutes," Floyd said, referring to a supposedly more passive defense. "They had 29 free throws in the second half.
"We fouled too much to win _ and normally you don't do that in a zone."