Huskies take advantage, run toward first

SEATTLE - Add another skill to the repertoire of Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar - Magician. He made UW's free throw woes go away and also made time disappear, allowing Justin Dentmon - plagued by foul trouble all day - to make his presence felt down the stretch as the Washington Huskies defeated No. 13 UCLA 86-75 Saturday for sole possession of first place in the Pac-10.

With the two home wins over the Bruins and the USC Trojans, the Huskies now are in control of their own destiny, putting the rest of the league in their rearview mirror. They are also expected to crack the top-25, the first time they've done that since the last weekend in 2006, when they were ranked 14th and ironically lost at USC and UCLA.

"We just completed a weekend of heavyweight fights here," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "The USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins are two heavyweights, and we had to have a heavyweight response."

"This is a very good team that beat us today," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said. "Washington is very well-coached and has outstanding athletes. They've got the two seniors that are playing great for them in Brockman and Dentmon."

Isaiah Thomas found his shooting touch in the second half, where he poured in 18 of his team-high 24 points, including three 3-pointers. The 24 points is the most the true frosh from Tacoma has scored so far in conference. Washington (15-4, 6-1) also received stellar contributions from Jon Brockman (18 points and eight rebounds), Dentmon's 16 points in 17 minutes of play, and 10 points each by Quincy Pondexter and Venoy Overton. They also found their stroke from the charity stripe, shooting .837 as a team and outscoring UCLA 36-10 via free throws.

UCLA (15-4, 5-2) was led by the career-high 24 points of Josh Shipp, who was 6-9 from 3-point range. The only other Bruin to score in double-digits was Darren Collison, who had 12 points and five assists.

With nearly 18 minutes to go in the first half, lead referee Dave Libbey called Dentmon with his second foul, forcing Overton into the game for extended minutes. Even without their second leading scorer on the bench and Shipp torching the nylon from outside, UW struggled back from a 9-1 early to down only one at half 39-38. Justin Holiday hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskies momentum going into halftime.

"I thought that we were just an average team in the first half," Romar said. "We allowed them to get out ahead of us."

The second half was a different story. Washington made their way into the bonus at the 13:31 mark when was fouled by the Bruins' Alfred Aboya. Nearly a minute later, Dentmon was on the bench with his fourth foul. But like they have all year long, the Huskies ham-and-egged their way to more points as Thomas two quick 3-pointers. The second one brought the house to its feet and extended the Huskies' lead to five, 58-53.

"Obviously the little guy had a great game today, he was a problem for us," Howland said of Thomas. "He was the one guy that was really knocking down threes for them."

Washington was able to steal minutes with Dentmon on the bench, so that by the time he came back in with five minutes left in the game, the Huskies were still up four. The senior guard from Carbondale, Ill. took a steal and scored a runner as the Huskies' margin grew. The Huskies' defense during this time was outstanding, as UCLA went scoreless for nearly five minutes. A Jerime Anderson jumper with 1:20 left in the game broke the Bruins' drought, but the damage had been done. Washington had used Dentmon's scoring burst and tenacious defense to distance themselves from the visitors, so by the time Dentmon hit two free throws with 1:36 left, UW was up 13, 79-66.

"I couldn't be more proud today of the player I've been able to coach than I am right now, Justin Dentmon," Romar said. "He did a great thing today. He got in early foul trouble. You pick up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game...I've seen guys go south. Their head's not in it. They're pouting. He stayed over there and I watched him. I glanced at him every now and then and he was so focused. He picks up his fourth foul, it would have been easy for him to check out mentally, but he didn't. He came back and he immediately made his presence felt, immediately had an impact on us winning that game."

No one saw Washington's performance from the line coming. Coming into the game, the Huskies were ninth in the league, shooting .662. But they improved on that number dramatically, as Dentmon's 10-straight free throws now gives him 21-straight from the stripe. Even Brockman, shooting .548 coming into Saturday's game, was 8-10.

"We had to foul at the end, but it was 31-11 I think with four minutes to go," Howland said. "They got to the line a lot more than we did. We were in foul trouble."

Next up for the Huskies, a dangerous road trip to the desert, as they play Arizona Thursday and Arizona State Saturday.
Statistics:
Points: Thomas 24, Brockman 18, Dentmon 16, Pondexter 10, Overton 10, Gant 3, Holiday 3, Bryan-Amaning 2
Rebounds: Brockman 8, Bryan-Amaning 5, Holiday 5, TEAM 5, Pondexter 4, Gant 3, Overton 3, Dentmon 2, Turner 1
Assists: Holiday 4, Overton 2, Pondexter 1, Gant 1, Thomas 1, Dentmon 1, Bryan-Amaning 1
Steals: Pondexter 2, Dentmon 2, Overton 2, Gant 1, Thomas 1
Blocks: Pondexter 1


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