Huskies survive Panther-sized scare for title

Looking back, it's safe to say that the young Washington Huskies had not been truly tested. Both of Washington's first two games saw the Huskies build enormous leads that their opponents could not overcome and there was never really any doubt.

But that wasn't the case Tuesday night as the Northern Iowa Panthers proved to be very worthy opponents and took the Huskies to the limit in a thriller that found the Huskies a 70-61 winner over UNI to claim the Basketball Travelers Classic Championship.

Northern Iowa was coming off of a 23-10 season and an NCAA Tournament appearance, where they lost to Georgetown in the first round last year.

"For a third game, you couldn't have asked for a better game," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said of his opponents. "That was a good, well-coached team that executed well on offense and defense. It was a great opportunity to step up and see what we were made of."

Washington (3-0) found themselves in unfamiliar territory by trailing for the first time all season the majority of the first half. The Panthers (2-1) were dictating the pace of the game early on as the Huskies failed to get off to one of their signature fast starts and get their momentum going.

The shooting of the Huskies left a lot to be desired as they wound up shooting an abysmal 37.5 percent (12-of-32) in the first half, which was actually an improvement from the earlier moments of the game. The duo of Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes couldn't find a groove and found a majority of their shots rattling in and out of the basket, combining to shoot 3 for 11 from the floor in the first half as the Panthers led by as many as eight points and held on to a 31-28 lead at halftime.

"(Northern Iowa) got off to a good start," Romar said. "It was like cold water, and they pushed us in and forced us to learn how to swim."

But the Huskies were ready to come out firing and get their shooting touch back. Justin Dentmon tied things up at 31-31 with a three pointer to start the second half.

Hawes rebounded back from a frustrating first half and began to show a soft touch as he maneuvered his way around the basket to keep the Huskies close the rest of the game with his most impressive showing in his young career. Hawes scored a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of play.

"I expect every shot to go in," said Hawes. "If they don't, it just nags on me. But just like you tell a good shooter to keep shooting, the coaches kept on telling me to simplify."

"It takes time," Romar said of Hawes. "He practiced three days before this tournament and this was first real challenge. He rose to the challenge and made some adjustments"

Panthers coach Ben Jacobson was full of praise for Hawes as well.

"He was really good," he said. "If it wasn't the hook shot, it was the turnaround. And if it wasn't the left hand, it was the right hand. He has a soft touch on it and I was just waiting for one or two to miss."

It was a back-and-forth battle all night as the two teams changed leads 11 times, including seven times in the second half.

Brockman, who had been playing most of the game in foul trouble, put the Huskies up for good with 4:09 left in the game with a free throw, and Ryan Appleby added to the lead with a pull-up three from the top of the arc to give the Huskies a 56-52 lead with 3:25 to play.

The Panthers kept the game within an arm's reach until Hawes made a huge block on the Panthers' Eric Coleman which led to a full-court sprint to the other side by Dentmon to lay it in to blow the roof off of the home court and take the wind out Northern Iowa's sails. The Panthers had one last shot, as they looked at a four-point deficit with just 46.8 ticks on the game clock, but Dentmon sealed the deal by putting the game out of reach with clutch free throws.

Washington finished the game shooting 42.9 percent from the floor, and a night after setting a new team record for three-pointers made, shot just 4 of 14 from beyond the arc for the game.

Dentmon tied a career-high and led the team with 17 points, and scored MVP honors for the tournament. Brockman scored seven points and five rebounds in his limited action.

"They really wanted to win the game, but it was a matter of who was tougher at the game," said Dentmon.

Brockman agreed and mentioned how this much better this win will look when March comes around the corner.

"This is one of those games that's a tournament game," said Brockman. "(The Tournament Selection Committee) looks at this game going into the tournament, and it gave us a taste of what it's like going into March."
Notes:
Husky Homecoming: Former Husky Bobby Jones took in the game behind the Husky bench and was greeted by a "Bobby" chant from the Dawg Pack. Jones, whose Philadelphia 76'ers are playing Seattle on Wednesday night, acknowledged the welcome with a wave to the Husky fans.

Basketball Travelers Classic All Tournament Team:
Adonis Gray (Nicholls State)
Marvin Lea (Pepperdine)
Grant Stout (No. Iowa)
Eric Coleman (No. Iowa)
Jon Brockman (Washington)
Justin Dentmon (Washington) (MVP)

Where is Harvey?: Redshirt Freshman Harvey Perry suited up, but did not play in the game. When asked why Perry wasn't in the game, Romar wouldn't elaborate but said that it wasn't injury-related.
Washington Statistics:
Points: Dentmon 17, Hawes 16, Appleby 14, Brockman 7, Pondexter 6, Oliver 6, Burmeister 2, Wallace 2
Rebounds: Hawes 7, Dentmon 6, Pondexter 5, Oliver 5, Brockman 4, Wallace 2, Gasser 2, Appleby 2
Assists:Dentmon 3, Oliver 2, Hawes 1, Gasser 1, Burmeister 1
Blocks: Hawes 3
Steals: Brockman 2, Dentmon 1
Attendance: 9,771

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