‘Hardwork + Toughness = Road Win'

TEMPE - Jon Brockman came out of the visitor's locker room Thursday night, sporting a brand-new t-shirt. It read ‘Hardwork + Toughness = Road Win'. Simple enough, right? But in Washington's 66-61 win over Arizona State, a lot of sweat equity was put in to gain possession of that prized present.

The team was given the shirts during shootaround before the game by the coaching staff. "It's now my favorite t-shirt," Brockman said, happy his 15 points and 12 rebounds weren't wasted in another losing road effort.

"It'll be our slogan for the rest of the year."

Up 44-21 at halftime, it appeared the Huskies were going to shatter their road woes with emphasis. But the Sun Devils weren't going away quietly. They scored six straight via the free-throw line, and ultimately racked up a 17-4 start to only be down ten points with over 13 minutes left in the game.

That's when new ASU Head Coach Herb Sendek decided to get ‘creative', or at least too creative by Pac-10 or NCAA standards. During a hustle play in which his player – Antwi Atuahene – was called for a foul, Sendek wanted his team and their fans that he was jacked up about their play.

The Sun Devils had cut a 23-point halftime deficit to 10 and Sendek wanted to ride that wave. The only problem is that he got called for two technical fouls for his efforts – enough to get him thrown out of the game.

"It was the first time in my career," Sendek would later say about his ejection.

"Lots of times coaches try to get one to fire his team up, so we were just like, don't let that strategy work," freshman center Spencer Hawes. "When he got the second one, I knew he didn't want to get that one. We took advantage of it."

Meanwhile, Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar was still thinking about getting his second-half Huskies to play as well as his first-half team did.

"We moved our feet as well as we have on the defensive end and we kept their possessions to one on the defensive end and we really moved the ball on the offensive end," Romar said, basically laying out the blueprint. "We were sharp, and when you're sharp, that's something you can build on.

"That was the first time when we've been on the road with that big of a lead. We didn't handle it right. It's another learning experience."

Washington went from shooting 65 percent to 24 percent in back-to-back halves. That's quite a discrepancy. "Shooting is such a rhythm thing, scoring is a rhythm thing," Romar said.

"The turnovers are what killed us," sophomore guard Justin Dentmon said. "We started playing not to lose. Once we realized they were coming back, we calmed down and played better. If we cut out those turnovers, we're still up by 20."

And unlike previous road performances against USC, Stanford and California, these Dawgs didn't wilt from the pressure. A key steal from senior walk-on Brandon Burmeister helped catalyze a 5-0 run by Washington during the last 1:13 of the game.

"That's why he was in the game – because he is a senior," Romar said of Burmeister's contribution. "Down the stretch, he's been in big games before; he's been in NCAA tournament games before. On the road, if you have someone that's been there before and done it, we put them in."

But it was Dentmon who stepped up like the confident player that sealed Illinois' fate in the Big Dance last year. He asserted himself offensively and came up with a big layin through the heart of Arizona State's stingy matchup-zone after a stagnant Huskies' offense appeared to have that deer-in-the-headlights look that's become an all-too familiar sight away from the friendly confines of ‘The Bank'. Two more free throws on top of that, and the Devils' run was finished.

"The coaches asked me to be more aggressive and get the ball in the middle," Dentmon said. "When it was a three-point game, I walked over to Justin and told him that we needed to get the ball in his hands, this was his time to get it done," Brockman added. He stepped up."

So that's all it takes…‘Hardwork + Toughness = Road Win'. So next up – Arizona – a team that appears to be searching for answers after losing to Washington State at home. The Huskies and ‘Cats have identical records (14-7) when the two tangle Saturday morning in Tucson, and while the Road Dawgs take their act to the McKale Center, their head coach has one thought on his mind.

"No one is asking where it came from the first half, and that's the half I'm interested in," he said. "We have to bottle that, duplicate that first half."

And if Washington can put together 40 minutes of ‘first-half' basketball against UA, Jon Brockman just might get a chance to wear his new favorite t-shirt again.

"It might make an appearance Saturday afternoon," he said – a big smile plastered across his face.


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