UW Runs Away from Rebels

After this game, the Washington basketball program might have to change its name to the Runnin' Huskies. Washington beat the UNLV Runnin' Rebels at their own run-and-gun type of game Wednesday night, winning 77-64 in front of 5,194 fans at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The win is the second in a row for Washington (4-1), which will next head down to Southern California to play at the University of San Diego on Saturday.

Curtis Allen led the purple and gold by scoring a career-high 21 points and playing one of the most complete games of his young career at the UW.

Allen's output surpassed his previous high of 18, and it came against UNLV point guard Marcus Banks, a junior college All American who the Runnin' Rebels have high hopes for. Not only did Allen score, he also passed. The sophomore point guard from Tacoma dished out a career-best eight assists to lead the team in that category for the fifth consecutive game this season.

"He's really crafty with that ball," said forward Doug Wrenn of Allen. "He has a chance to be a really good player, and probably one of the better point guards in the Pac-10. We won off of his back today."

Allen's strong performance came against a team he always admired growing up, when they had the likes of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony.

"When I was young I used to always watch them," he said after the game. "I knew that I was going to be on the floor with a chance to play them so I had to take advantage of it."

Nobody benefited from his play more than Wrenn, who also finished with 21 points to lead the team along with the point guard. Wrenn played all but five minutes in the game and shot 9-21 from the field. He struggled from the perimeter, but had five point-blank finishes off slick passes from Allen to make his shooting night appear more respectable.

None were more magnificent than the one that occurred late in the contest with the Huskies already ahead 65-54. Allen led a fastbreak with only one defender back and Wrenn trailing to his right. Allen first faked a behind-the-back pass, pulled it back, then again rifled it behind his back - all in one motion - to Wrenn for the monster slam. With only 4:25 remaining and the Husky crowd at it's loudest of the night, that all but finished any of UNLV's remaining hopes for a comeback.

"I knew that since we were playing UNLV we might make Sportscenter," chuckled Allen afterwards, explaining why he went for the flashy play.

The game's final score doesn't indicate how close of a contest it truly was.

Each of the teams proved to be evenly matched - both athletic yet relatively small - and they both looked to push the ball and run the floor whenever possible.

It was neck and neck for the entire first half with an amazing 15 lead changes. Neither team held a lead of larger than six, that being the Huskies who at one point led 32-26 following an Erroll Knight three pointer from the top of the key.

UNLV was led by junior Dalron Johnson, who poured in 14 points by halftime and simply couldn't be stopped whenever he got within five feet of the basket. Allen led Washington with 12 before intermission, six of which came off of two three-point shots. The Huskies held a slim 36-33 advantage heading into half.

The game remained close until midway through the second half when Washington center David Dixon picked up his fourth personal foul on an hooking call at the offensive end of the floor. It came as a blessing in disguise for the home team. Husky Head Coach Bob Bender inserted Grant Leep into the lineup, the senior from Mount Vernon who stands 6-7 and used as a perimeter threat that can stretch the defense. The lineup move immediately paid off. Leep hit a three pointer from the wing to put the Huskies up 58-52, at that time tying their biggest lead of the game. The shot ignited the crowd and made UNLV call a timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, the Huskies came up with a steal when Josh Barnard overplayed a pass. He was fouled, went to the line with the Washington already in the bonus, and hit both free throws to extend the lead to eight.

With Leep and Barnard in the lineup, each of whom only got three minutes of playing time in the first half, the Huskies went on what ended up being a 20-4 run that was capped by Wrenn's thunderous slam off the behind-the-back pass from Allen.

Washington freshman Jeff Day (#4) played tough second half defense on UNLV star Dalron Johnson (photo by Dave Samek)

Much of why the Huskies were able to break ahead was because of their stifling defense. Bender made a defense adjustment on UNLV's Johnson, moving freshman Jeffrey Day on him and letting Wrenn play elsewhere where hevcould help on double teams. It worked to perfection. The taller and longer Day gave Johnson fits, making the junior miss shot after shot and draw him into frustration.

"Those were big consecutive minutes in a stretch drive," Bender said of Day's performance. "His rebounding and his defense on Johnson were tremendous."

Day said he had a plan when defending the Runnin' Rebels' leading scorer.

"In the first half he scored four quick points on me," the freshman from Seattle Prep said. "I told myself that I could play much better defense than that. I was letting him get the ball way too easy. In the second half he had to work for everything he got. It was just a matter of me positioning myself better."

Johnson finished the contest with 23 points, but went just 3-10 from the floor in the second half with the presence of the 6-9 defender on him.

The only other UNLV player to score in double-digits for the game was forward Chris Richardson, who finished with 11 points on 5-9 shooting.

"We played the type of game that I thought we were going to have to," Bender said afterwards. "I couldn't be more proud of a team that really did a great job for being so inexperienced."

"That's a big-time win for us," Wrenn agreed. "I don't care what anybody says, UNLV is a prominent program and they are still on the upper echelon."
Husky Stats:

Points: Wrenn 21, Allen 21, Leep 10, Knight 9, Dixon 6, Barnard 5, Massingale 3, Day 2

Rebounds: Dixon 8, Day 8, Wrenn 6, Knight 4, Leep 4, Allen 3, Barnard 3, Massingale 2, Conroy 1, Jensen 1

Assists: Allen 8, Wrenn 4, Dixon 1, Massingale 1, Day 1, Conroy 1, Barnard 1

Steals: Allen 2, Massingale 2, Conroy 2, Barnard 1, Knight 1

Blocks: Dixon 4, Wrenn 1, Allen 1
Game Notes:

Runnin' to victory: In their 44 years of basketball, UNLV has compiled the third-best winning percentage amongst Division-I teams at .722. They are 886-341 all time.

Heads-up frosh: Erroll Knight and Will Conroy each wore headbands for the contest.

Up Next: The Huskies play at the University of San Diego on Saturday - 7 p.m. tipoff.

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