Better late than never for Huskies

The Washington Huskies came into Saturday's game against Arizona with a chance to win their first regular season Pac 10 title since 1985, and a shot at redemption against the team that snapped their 32-home game winning streak. Arizona on the other hand, was in need of another quality win to impress the NCAA selection committee. UW came out on top in a hotly contested battle 70-67, a game in which they did not earn a lead until inside the final minute of the game.

The match up featured two of the league's most accomplished and consistent seniors, both of whom have a lot to play for in the last regular season games of their great careers. Washington's Brandon Roy nearly left for the NBA right out of high school, and here he sits four years later as the leader of a 21-5 team and favorite to win Pac 10 Player of the Year honors. Arizona's Hassan Adams is the leading active Pac-10 career scorer and rebounder, and he has been a real catalyst for the Wildcats strong finish to what looked like it would be a disappointing season. He ranked third in the league in scoring (17.9) and first in steals (2.76) coming into Saturday's game and is a major reason for Arizona's 11-1 record this season at the McHale Center. These two players would be called on early and often today to provide not only scoring, but also to shut down their opposing counterparts. Whichever star stepped his game up would be the one to come home with the victory.

It was the man from Garfield High that would end up winning the duel, accounting for a double-double (16 points and 11 rebounds). Ryan Appleby was deadly from three for the Huskies (24-5, 13-5), eventually accounting for 14 points. Freshman guard Justin Dentmon was once again nails down the stretch, adding 13 points and three steals, while senior forward Jamaal Williams closed out the UW double-digit scoring with 12 points and six rebounds. Arizona (18-11, 11-7) was led by Seattle native Marcus Williams, who finished with 20 points but missed two free throws very late in the game to help seal the 'Cats' fate. Mustafa Shakur had a double-double for UA, with 10 points and 10 assists.

With the Wildcats celebrating Senior Day, there was clearly a lot of emotion coming into the final game before the Pac 10 Tournament starts next weekend. The McKale Center was packed, the students were pumped, and both teams appeared to be ready to go. Arizona took a decisive 25-14 lead to start the game and looked poised to complete the season sweep of Washington. But the Huskies weathered the run, and by half time the game was again up for grabs. Contrary to the pre-game hype, neither Roy nor Adams were playing very well. Both players had scored just six points combined. Regardless of the score, with the Huskies leading the battle on the boards, it was clear that they were going to play big and physical against the Wildcats. UW out-rebounded UA 39-27, led by Roy's 11 and the eight of freshman forward Jon Brockman.

Coming out of the half down three (34-31), the Huskies were again playing flat. Mustafa Shakur, the Cats' junior point guard, was continually getting into the paint and drawing defenders, leaving teammates open for easy put backs. Arizona took a ten-point lead in the first five minutes of the half and it looked like the game might be slipping out of Washington's grasp. Coach Lorenzo Romar called a timeout to settle his guys down, and it worked.

Almost immediately the lead was cut to five after a Roy drive and an Appleby three. The teams traded buckets from that point on until inside the final minute. After a pretty left-handed lay in by Roy, the Huskies forced a steal and Dentmon passed ahead to Bobby Jones, who slammed it home for UW's first lead of the game with only 28 seconds left. UW had waited the entire game to earn its first advantage, and they were going to do their best to hang onto it.

Roy was called for a block on the other end, sending Williams to the line for two free throws he would eventually miss. Roy cleaned up on his second attempt, and after a couple of UA fouls to get Washington in the bonus, it was Dentmon time. He calmly stepped to the line and nailed two both, giving the Dawgs a three point lead. Hassan Adams threw up desperation three pointer at the buzzer, but it airballed, and that was all she wrote.

The victory earns the Huskies second place in the Pac 10 for the third consecutive year. Roy reflected on the team's success. "If I'd told people that we would finish second three times in a row, they would have said you're crazy," he said. This year's accomplishments are truly something to be recognized.

After losing three big leaders off of last year's team, the Huskies have somehow found a way to finish with the same record (23-5) that they had last season. Roy feels that says a lot about this team, and will help them climb out of the shadows of last year's squad. "I miss those guys, but as a player, I tried to make myself as good as I can," Roy said. "They were great players but we are just as good of a team this year. We're getting better, we feel like the sky is the limit."

If the Dawgs can continue their hot late-season play by having a good showing in the Pac 10 Tournament, it will be hard for the NCAA not to reward this team's success on Selection Sunday. Romar acknowledged that his team will most likely not receive the same #1 seeding that they did a year ago, but that they really don't care what they get. What's important is that they have weathered the storm, won some big games that they haven't won in the past, and are playing their best basketball right now. No matter what their seed, this team is prepared to do some damage come tournament time.
Points: Roy 16, Appleby 14, Dentmon 13, Williams 12, Brockman 8, Jones 7
Rebounds: Roy 11, Brockman 8, Williams 6, Jones 5, TEAM 4, Jensen 2, Dentmon 2, Appleby 1
Assists: Roy 5, Dentmon 3, Jensen 2, Appleby 2, Brockman 1, Smith 1, Williams 1
Steals: Dentmon 3, Jones 1, Brockman 1, Appleby 1
Blocks: Dentmon 1 Top Stories