Feb. 14, 2009
SEATTLE (AP) - The Pac-10 regular season title race was already in Washington's control before Saturday arrived.
It's even more so now.
Led by the starring foursome of Isaiah Thomas, Justin Dentmon, Quincy Pondexter and Jon Brockman, the Huskies built a 24-point halftime lead and ran over Oregon 103-84 on Saturday afternoon, moving 1½ games clear in the conference standings.
The foursome each topped the 20-point mark, led by Thomas' 24 points. Dentmon finished with 21 points, same as Brockman, who also tied his career-high with 18 rebounds. Pondexter added 20 points, the third time he's scored 20 or more in Washington's last four games.
"This is about to be a lot of fun. This is where champions come out and play," Dentmon said of the Huskies' remaining schedule that begins next week at UCLA and USC. "Once the light is on, we just have to come out and perform."
About the only blemish on this day for Washington (19-6, 10-3 Pac-10) was an uninterested effort defensively in the second half, as Oregon's shooters found their stroke from beyond the 3-point line. Diminutive guard Tajuan Porter hit six 3-pointers and scored 27 of his season-high 33 points in the second half.
But the second half lull might be a benefit for Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, who can spend this week preaching focus to his players as they head to Los Angeles for a pair of games that can either re-ignite the conference race or put it out of reach.
The Huskies will face UCLA on Thursday and USC on Saturday, holding a 1½-game lead over the Bruins thanks to their loss at Arizona early Saturday. The Huskies then close the conference season hosting the Arizona schools and rival Washington State.
"I think guys will realize how big a deal this is," Brockman said.
Despite Oregon's frantic second half rally, the Ducks (6-19, 0-13) couldn't chip far enough into Washington's lead to create any worry in the Huskies. Washington's first half was so dominant, Ducks' coach Ernie Kent decided the best way to inspire his players was to leave them alone in the locker room at halftime for 10 minutes.
It worked to a certain extent. The Ducks scored 59 points in the second half _ the most scored in a half this season for the Ducks _ but still could never get closer than 14 points on Garrett Sim's 3-pointer with 5:48 left.
Porter, who was 2 of 10 in the first half, hit 8 of 12 shots in the final 20 minutes.
"(The coaches) didn't come back to the locker room until there were five minutes left in halftime, so that was a message itself," Porter said. "But when he came in there he told us what we had to do. We dug ourselves into a hole, we were playing passive in the beginning of the game. We came out in the second half and gave it a better fight."
Still, the Ducks' listless first half is likely to increase the heat on Kent. Two days after being routed by Washington State in a 29-point setback, the Ducks trailed by nearly that much at halftime on Saturday.
"I think again, they want to win more than anything, so don't expect them to quit," Kent said. "They're going to bounce back and battle like crazy."
Washington won its eighth straight over the Ducks in Seattle and the 103 points was a season-high.
Washington scored the first eight points of the game, then put together three more spurts of seven unanswered points to build a huge advantage. It was the Huskies' best offensive first half of the season, and the 49-25 lead at the break was their biggest at halftime this season.
Dentmon again was the catalyst for the Huskies with a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, and he added a little flair to his game. Dentmon's breakaway dunk and leaning runner in the final seconds of the first half gave the Huskies their 24-point advantage.
Thomas did his usual damage with nifty drives through the Ducks' defense, and his ability to hang in the air and finish in traffic around the basket. Thomas didn't attempt a 3-pointer, but continually drew chances for three-point plays on his drives to the rim.
"We're the two-headed monster. We're just the guard version," Dentmon said of himself and Thomas.
The Huskies kept the Ducks at a distance thanks to the second-half performances of Brockman and Pondexter. Brockman had 16 points and 13 rebounds in the second half and Pondexter added 12 points. Brockman also hit 9 of 10 free-throw attempts as Washington finished 36 of 46 at the line.
LeKendric Longmire added 16 points and Michael Dunigan scored 14 for the Ducks.