Huskies take sting out of Hornets

Sacramento State buzzed into town Sunday as a young Washington hoops team tried to iron out the rough spots. Were the Huskies ready to take it to the next level yet? Well, they had their moments, and a 30-9 spurt over the final 9:07 of the first half was enough for UW to extend a lead and hold off the Hornets 83-74 in front of 9,428 at Bank of America Arena.

Freshman Quincy Pondexter's 22 points paced Washington (4-0), while Alex Bausley had 19 for the visitors from Sacramento State (2-3).

The game didn't start pretty for the Huskies, who staggered into an early 13 point deficit before finding their stride late in the first half. Bausley, the Hornets rugged 6-7 forward, mugged his way to 10 points and 5 boards in the half before the Husky bigs managed to lock him down (he ended with 19 points, 8 boards), and guard Loren Leath was white hot from outside early, before the relentless Husky perimeter defense managed to get a hand in his face.

Pondexter and his inexorable energy and steady touch from the field kept the Dawgs in the game while the his teammates napped on the floor scoring 14 points in the half while tallying 8 boards.

Adrian Oliver and Phil Nelson both saw early minutes, showing dramatic improvement from the previous week, making better decisions and not getting caught out of position at the defensive end.

Spencer Hawes was also a perfect 4 for 4 from the field with his usual dazzling array of posts moves, but the Huskies continue to have problems getting the ball to the big freshman, having several entry passes either deflected or picked off.

Justin Dentmon was again bitten by the turnover bug with three miscues in the half and was generally out of sync with the offense. The Travelers' classic MVP never got untracked, finishing with 6 points on 3 of 6 shooting and backcourt mate Ryan Appleby (6 points on 2 of 7 shooting) wasn't any better as he was held scoreless in the second half.

By then, the damage had been done and all the Huskies had to do was hold a lead.

At the end of the half, the Dawgs led by 10 points, but you wouldn't know it by first 18 minutes. Appleby found his stroke draining two late three pointers and Jon Brockman cuts to the hoop were rewarded with open lay-ins as the Hornets tried to defend Appleby outside.

Though Sacramento State refused to go quietly, the game was over when the first half ended. Brockman's (13 points, 9 boards) coast-to-coast dunk highlighted an otherwise quiet second half, while Hawes continued his casual brilliance from inside and out. The Hornets, despite having the advantage of quicker guards, were unable to break the Dawgs stifling half court defense, shooting a miserable 34% from the field.

The Huskies meanwhile, continued to cough up the ball at a disappointing clip, surrendering it 24 times and looking ugly doing it. As conference play nears, the miscues now become a bigger concern and while inexperience may still remain a valid excuse, it now becomes a less acceptable one. The good news is that despite losing the turnover battle in all 4 games, the Dawgs are undefeated on the year, but that trend can't be expected to continue with games against heavyweights Gonzaga and LSU looming on the horizon. They will be eager to take advantage of Husky mistakes.

While the errant passes will hopefully work themselves out, one area in particular will need to be addressed. On a night when Hawes took just seven shots from the field (making all of them) the Husky guards were totally ineffective at getting him the ball down low, something they have struggled with as Hawes' playing time has increased. The versatile center is the key to unlocking the Huskies potential this year, but not without better looks from his teammates.

Hawes did end the night with 14 points and 6 blocked shots, and the team's 11 total blocks is the most since 2002.

On a more positive note, both Oliver (7 points, 5 boards, 2 turnovers) and Nelson (6 points) played much better, though you wouldn't know it by looking at the scoreboard. Nelson's defense stood out in particular, doing a solid job of staying with his man without the occasional momentary lapses that plagued him the first couple of games, resulting in easy buckets.

On another ugly night, the Huskies again emerged victorious, but the big question is; how much longer can they continue to buck the odds?
Statistics:
Points: Pondexter 22, Hawes 14, Brockman 13, Dentmon 7, Oliver 7, Appleby 6, Nelson 6, Gasser 4, Burmeister 2, Perry 1, Wallace 1
Rebounds: Pondexter 9, Brockman 9, Appleby 6, TEAM 5, Oliver 5, Gasser 4, Hawes 3, Burmeister 3, Dentmon 2, Nelson 2, Perry 1, Wallace 1
Assists: Dentmon 6, Pondexter 4, Burmeister 3, Brockman 2, Appleby 2, Gasser 2, Hawes 1, Oliver 1, Nelson 1
Blocks: Hawes 6, Pondexter 1, Oliver 1, Burmeister 1, Wallace 1, Nelson 1
Steals: Brockman 1, Hawes 1

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