Huskies talk about win

It was a good night for Husky hoops fans concerned about their team's struggles in the early stages of the 2006-07 campaign. Despite a lofty national ranking, turnovers and inconsistent play have marred a perfect record, and while the Huskies were far from perfect in their 87-72 win against Southern Utah, there was little doubt in most minds that this was the Dawgs' best-played game to date.

"I thought that a higher level of play was required to win tonight," said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar after the game. "And our guys provided it. Southern Utah is a good basketball team, a solid basketball team. I thought our guys were solid with the exception of the 21 turnovers. I thought we played as good as we have all year."

If that didn't sum up his thoughts on the night, his next comment certainly does.

"This was the game that we've been looking for, where we played 40 minutes of sound basketball."

Southern Utah Coach Bill Evans wasn't pleased with his team's performance, but his admiration for the Huskies was apparent as well.

"We didn't defend very well tonight," he said. "They are a hard team to defend, but we didn't play very good defense. We had to pick our poison, we can double down on Hawes and then he will just kick it out to their shooters. They are well-balanced team."

Though the team didn't click offensively early in the game, the team's defense was solid right out of the gates.

"We've been struggling early in games," said point guard Justin Dentmon. "I'm really happy about how we came out playing defense from the start."

Though several players stood out tonight, it was Dentmon who drew the most praise from his coach.

"I thought Justin Dentmon was huge on both ends of the floor, he shared, and it may have gone unnoticed what he did," Romar said of the sophomore guard from Carbondale, Ill. "He controlled us offensively, made great post feeds, and, defensively, the job he did on (Southern Utah point guard) Steve Barnes was second to none. Barnes is a really good player."

Dentmon collapsed to the floor in agony, holding his leg and knee with three minutes left in the game, but according to coach Romar, there is nothing to worry about. "It was just cramps," he said.

"t started happening 12 minutes into the game and I had to come out and stretch and it just kept getting worse and worse," added Dentmon. "I've been eating fruit and everything, so I don't what it was. It was just a shocking experience. I'm hurting right now. I can't lift my arms, but if the game was still going on, I'd stretch it out and get right back in there."

Ryan Appleby had a pretty impressive night as well scoring a career-high 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting. "Ryan was tremendous tonight," said Romar. "He got us going. When he shoots the ball like that you don't think he is ever going to miss."

The ever humble Appleby credited his teammates for his success. "I got rolling, because my teammates were able to find me," he said. "I hit a couple and stayed focused, and the guys found me and I got a lot of open shots. When you get open looks like that, the basket doesn't have to look very big to make them."

Appleby wasn't the only Husky shooter to have a big night. Freshman Phil Nelson broke his shooting slump, going 2 of 5 from downtown and finishing with 10 points, but that wasn't what impressed his coach.

"Phil finally was able to make shots, but for Phil Nelson, making shots is no surprise," said Romar. "What he did well was on the defensive end he really got after it. He got on the floor, dove for a ball or two, rebounded pretty well. He did other things that we wanted him to do tonight and consequently, he played 20 minutes."

Nelson isn't concerned about his recent struggles from outside. "Coach said to just keep shooting," he said.

With so many shooters, the opposition is going to have a tough time defending the Dawgs.

"There are certain lineups we envisioned before the season started that could really stretch defenses," Romar said. "When we put Ryan, Phil and Adrian (Oliver) out there at the same time it stretches defenses and makes it harder for teams to double Spencer (Hawes) and makes for better offensive efficiency."

The biggest beneficiary of the barrage from the perimeter was the Center Hawes, who scored a season-high 21 points. "The shooters definitely opened a lot of things up for me tonight," he said. "They couldn't front me so I had a lot of opportunities with people coming to the hoop. It goes both ways," added the former McDonald's All American "When the defense is flying out to cover the shooters it just opens everything up, just like a good inside presence opens it up outside, but when we get that balance it makes us that much harder to defend."

Romar knew it was just a matter of time for Spencer to get comfortable. "Spencer didn't practice with us for five weeks," he said. "We've been working on it, but with a new team, we don't have the luxury of throwing him the basketball against tight defenses."

It's 'show time' now, though. "Now that's he's back, we've finally been able to start working that way," Romar added. "We are going to get the ball to Spencer Hawes. We did tonight. They were playing behind him and allowing him to catch the ball. There will be games where it will be tough."

Evans knew his Thunderbirds might struggle against Hawes. "He (7-2 center Brad Kanis) doesn't usually start," said Evans on his plan to stop Hawes. "Kanis is a real warrior inside, although I don't know if anyone could have stopped Hawes tonight."

Though his teammates deserve a lot of credit for providing opportunities for Spencer, ultimately he was the one who had to put the ball in the hoop. "I think we did a tremendous job of getting Spencer the ball," said Romar. "But he did a tremendous job finishing."

His point guard was pretty happy with the results as well.

"Man, he was catching the ball tonight," laughed Dentmon when asked about Hawes. "Every time down I went to him, and when they told me I only had eight assists, I really wanted a double-double, I had to get it." Top Stories