Huskies Shake Ducks off Their Backs

SEATTLE - It is officially do or die time for the Washington Huskies, reaching the mid-point of the 2007-2008 campaign. After a less-than-successful trip to UCLA and USC, the Washington Huskies regained some of their swagger, defeating Oregon 78-70 at Bank of America Arena Thursday. It's the seventh-straight win for the Huskies over the Ducks at home, and it came at a great time.

It's a solid win for the Huskies, as they beat an Oregon squad coming off a momentum building victory at home against the 23rd ranked Stanford Cardinal. The explosive Ducks offense, which leads the conference in scoring at 83.3 points per game, live and die by the 3-pointer. But the Huskies were able to take advantage of Oregon's defense, where they are also a decidedly different animal. Oregon is currently the worst defensive team in the conference, surrendering 73.1 points a game. The Huskies, leading the conference in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.7 percent from deep, capitalized on the Ducks' porous defense, as Ryan Appleby hit five treys.

"We talked about Oregon as the most lethal offensive team in the league and we saw why tonight," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said in his post-game press conference. "Their ability to shoot the three, to penetrate and dish, and score from every spot on the floor we have played or will play this year."

It wasn't exactly surprising that Appleby was able to find his shooting touch. That's what happens when you pit terrible 3-point defenses against the conference's best shooting teams. Early on, both teams fired away with reckless abandon. The Ducks' rotation featured five players shooting 37 percent or better from 3-point land, and true to form, they hit nine 3-pointers in the opening half.

The Huskies followed the lead of Appleby, coming off a dismal trip to the LA schools. The senior co-captain was held scoreless during the trip, but rattled off eight quick points early on.

"We were comfortable with the pace of the game, but I wasn't comfortable with the threes that we didn't take in rhythm," Romar said.

"When (Appleby) is hitting, he gives us a huge boost," explained junior captain Jon Brockman. "We knew we needed to set better screens for him to get him open, because all teams are going to play him the same. We knew going in to it that we needed to get him looks because he spreads things out for us so much."

With the Ducks dictating the torrid pace of the game, the Huskies pushed out in front with their physical play and relentless rebounding. The bigger Husky forwards attacked the hoop with vigor, with Brockman leading the charge, and the Ducks had no answer. Washington out-rebounded Oregon by double-digits for the game.

Brockman and freshman forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning were able to help neutralize Oregon's deep shooting, as they combined for 17 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.

"It is Brockman, number one," said Oregon Head Coach Ernie Kent after the game, when asked for they keys to Washington's victory. "He is just a relentless rebounder, and they are a relentless rebounding team, so you need to be a relentless block-out team.

"I feel like at times, they pounded us on the boards," he added. "It's a mental thing right there that leads to a physical breakdown, which leads to them winning the hustle game and then winning an energy game against you which you just can't do against Washington."

Oregon post Maarty Luenen was effective on his own, though he did his damage from outside the arc. The senior from Redmond, Ore. went 3-3 from beyond the line, closing the half equaling Brockman's 13 points. Luenen ended the game with 22 points and six boards on 8 of 9 shooting.

Husky freshman Venoy Overton found a way to leave his mark in the first half as well, out-playing Oregon's Taquan Porter as he took advantage of the spirited pace. Overton finished the half with eight points, four rebounds and three assists while making life tough for Porter.

The half ended with a 44-39 Washington lead.

Both teams went cold to begin the second half, unable to re-establish the blazing offensive rhythm that carried them into halftime. Washington finally managed to get the cork out of the bottle on consecutive lay-ins by Brockman, who finished the night with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Center Artem Wallace pushed the lead to nine before Oregon got on track, bringing the deficit back to four.

Again and again the Huskies surged ahead, but Oregon was quick with an answer, despite cooling from outside. Malik Hairston was particularly effective attacking the hoop, as he battled the bigger Huskies underneath, even mixing it up with Brockman. Hairston ended the game with 20 points.

"We talked about, in preparation for whole Washington trip, that there were a couple of areas that we needed to come out on top to win," Coach Kent said. "One of those areas was to win the hustle games, the loose balls, attacking the glass and things like that.

"I think when you look at the stats, the 45-33 Washington edge in rebounding, that tells you something right there: we didn't win the game."

With five minutes to play, Hairston's three pointer from the corner closed the gap to five, and after a quick Tim Morris bucket moments later, Luenen's three-point play left Washington with a narrow lead. Again, the two teams traded buckets and with just 1:37 remaining the Huskies still maintained a three-point advantage. That was until Appleby buried a 3-pointer from beyond the left wing to put Washington up for good.

Despite the victory, Brockman wasn't quite as positive about the Huskies' tournament chances. "We're not there yet, not right now," he said. "Not with the record we have and what we've done so far, but I think we can be."

Next up, the Huskies face the 0-5 Oregon State Beavers Saturday afternoon while the Ducks travel to Pullman to battle the 8th-ranked Washington State Cougars Sunday evening.
Statistics:
Points: Brockman 21, Appleby 19, Overton 11, Morris 10, Bryan-Amaning 6, Dentmon 4, Pondexter 3, Wallace 2, Smith 2
Minutes: Brockman 34, Appleby 33, Morris 29, Overton 27, Pondexter 24, Bryan-Amaning 20, Dentmon 14, Smith 11, Wallace 8
Rebounds: Brockman 16, Morris 5, Pondexter 5, TEAM 5, Overton 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Wallace 2, Smith 2, Dentmon 2, Appleby 1
Assists: Overton 5, Morris 4, Appleby 3, Brockman 2, Dentmon 1, Bryan-Amaning 1, Pondexter 1
Steals: Brockman 3, Morris 3, Overton 1, Dentmon 1
Blocks: Brockman 1, Bryan-Amaning 1, Pondexter 1


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