Huskies put EWU in Deep Freeze

SEATTLE - While a winter storm dumped a white Christmas on top of Bank of America Arena Saturday night, the Eastern Washington Eagles got caught up in a blizzard of their own. The Washington Huskies used a half-closing 21-4 run to beat up the hapless Eagles 83-50 in front of an estimated crowd of 2500 hit hard by icy roads and an ominous forecast for more snow.

It was destined to be a weird night anyway: The kind of night where a home game doesn't feel like a home game; a game that involved no band and no cheerleaders; a game where Justin Dentmon would out-rebound Jon Brockman; a game where UW outscored their opponents 21-1 from the free-throw line; the kind where parking was free and you could sit wherever you wanted to. In the game itself, Washington used a first-half 15-0 run and a second-half 13-0 run to put EWU comfortably away. By the third television timeout at the 6:31 mark of the game, the Huskies had marched out to a 33-point lead, which would end up being their final margin of victory.

Making things worse for the Eagles is that they are currently stranded in Seattle while trying to get a bus to drive them back to Cheney in time for their Monday home game against Evergreen State. "We had two different bus companies here," EWU Head Coach Kirk Earlywine said after the game. "One of them told us this afternoon that they wouldn't take us back tonight so we called another one that said they would. Now after the game they are telling us they won't take us back tonight either, so we're stuck here. The (hotel) we were at is already sold out so we are not going back there."

"When you play at home you can be energized by a crowd, especially our crowd, but at the same time you can't rely on that," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "You've got to rely on what is within and I thought our guys did a pretty good job of that. I felt like grabbing the mic and thanking all the fans that were here for coming out. We really appreciate the people coming out and supporting us."

Washington (7-3) was led by the 17 points of Jon Brockman in 23 minutes of play. "This was a good test," he said. "It was a good opportunity to energize each other and simulate more of a road game. I'm sure there are a lot of fans out there that wanted to come but couldn't."

It was the first game action the senior forward had seen in two weeks since suffering a sprained ankle the day before their Dec. 14 game against Portland State. Afterward he said the ankle felt alright, but not 100 percent due to a lack of lift or lateral movement. "It was good to get back there and I don't think I hurt it any further," he said. "I just have to keep taking care of it."

Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas each scored 13 points for the Huskies in a balanced effort that saw all 12 active players score at least one point while playing no more than 23 minutes each. Nine players played more than 15 minutes. "Without (Brockman) you have to force and create more on your own to get your teammates off," said Thomas. "With him, you know there's a double coming to him every time so he creates opportunities for his teammates every time he touches the ball. It makes it a lot easier for us to play when he's on the court."

Brockman needed to shake off the rust, as he went 2-7 in the first half of play, all from inside the key. "The hoop hasn't changed, but my ankle has changed a little bit," he said.

Chris Busch paced the Eagles (6-5) with 13 points of his own, the only Eastern player to score in double-figures. Leading scorer Benny Valentine, a 5-foot-7 transfer from Texas Tech, was held to 7 second-half points after sitting out the entire first half to what Earlywine termed a 'coach's decision'.

"I thought physically that we were competitive enough," Earlywine said. "Washington is an unbelievable rebounding team. I liked our level of competitiveness."

Ironically enough, despite the fact that UW outmanned EWU on the boards 39-34, it wasn't up to the Huskies' normal effort; this was due, in part, to Brockman's health. "It was one of those things where we were going to test it (ankle) out in the beginning and it felt good enough to keep going," he said. "It was good to shake off a little bit of the rust."

Conversely, the Huskies were able to put the Eagles' main post presence - 6-foot-9 Brandon Moore from Graham - in foul difficulty. He drew his second foul with nearly 16 minutes to go in the first half and that stymied his effectiveness all game long. He finished with four points on 2-8 shooting, a far cry from his 11 point season average.

"They go to (Moore) a lot, and anytime you can go at someone who is a key part of their team and put them on the bench, that's what we want to do," Brockman said. Our guards did a great job of finding us down low and going right at him to draw the fouls."

Overall, Washington shot 29 more free throws than Eastern, and it took the Eagles nearly 37 minutes to make their first shot from the line. They finished the night 1-6. The Huskies also played some tough defense, blocking eight shots and EWU's 22 turnovers led to 25 UW points.

"When you turn the ball over and you turn it over directly to points, that's pretty tough to overcome," Earlywine said.
Statistics:
Points: Brockman 17, Thomas 13, Dentmon 13, Bryan-Amaning 9, Turner 8, Wallace 6, Overton 5, Holiday 4, Pondexter 3, Gant 2, Wolfinger 2, Suggs 1
Rebounds: Bryan-Amaning 7, Dentmon 6, Brockman 5, Turner 4, Pondexter 3, Overton 3, TEAM 3, Gant 2, Thomas 2, Wolfinger 2, Wallace 1, Holiday 1
Assists: Pondexter 4, Thomas 2, Holiday 2, Brockman 1, Gant 1, Dentmon 1, Overton 1, Turner 1, Wolfinger 1
Steals: Dentmon 4, Overton 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Brockman 1, Turner 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 3, Holiday 2, Pondexter 1, Brockman 1, Gant 1


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