Huskies survive test, dust Devils

The Washington Huskies bounced back from a tough loss at Arizona, regaining their form from outside and from the free throw line, as they defeated No. 14 Arizona State 84-71 Saturday afternoon to share the Pac-10 lead at the half-way mark with UCLA. Justin Dentmon scored a career-high 30 points, including 4-7 from 3-point range, to pace the Huskies.

The win - the 12th out of the last 13 against the Sun Devils, gives Washington (16-5, 7-2) a tie for first with UCLA, who beat Stanford by 34 earlier in the day. Arizona State (16-5, 5-4) sunk into the middle of the conference mire, but will probably bounce back strong with the Oregon schools coming up on their schedule.

"We wanted to avoid losing four-straight road games," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "There's no shame coming out to the desert and getting a split, especially Arizona State. That's a win that's going to help us down the road.

"I would have taken (a share of the title at the half-way point) at the beginning of the year, considering we have had five road games and four home games. But we still have work to do."

"Justin Dentmon played like a senior. He was very, very good tonight."

Besides Dentmon's 30, freshman guard Isaiah Thomas chipped in 25 big points. Senior forward Jon Brockman was the only other Husky in double-digits, scoring 10 points. The Sun Devils were led by the 21 points and 14 rebounds of Jeff Pendergraph. James Harden added 15 points, Derek Glasser had 11 and Rihards Kuksiks came up with 10 points in the loss.

Dentmon, who apparently didn't feel very well Friday, got off early, hitting two-straight treys, along with one from freshman guard Elston Turner, to give Washington a nine-point lead with 10:15 left in the first half. Two more bombs from Dentmon, and the Huskies led 27-14 at the third television timeout. From that point, the Huskies were able to maintain their cushion and lead at half 41-29.

"I thank God for the opportunity to play like this," Dentmon said after the game. "Coach said earlier that I was shooting well, and the team was looking for me, so I just made sure my feet were set."

The second half was more of the same, but Dentmon went inside instead of out. Isaiah Thomas hit his only three of the game with 18:09 left, and the Huskies were able to use the inside presence of Jon Brockman to help extend their lead to 19 with 15:42 remaining.

ASU Head Coach Herb Sendek, not happy with the officiating for much of the game, blew his stack and got hit with a technical foul with 12:47 left after contesting a James Harden offensive foul. Up 14 after Dentmon made one of two technical free throws - killing his streak of made free-throws at 26 - the Devils went to work.

"Once the crowd got into it we knew it would give them some life, so we just had to stay focused," Dentmon said.

Harden, the leading scorer in the Pac-10, was held to only five points in the first half, but he started to go to work and ASU trimmed the Huskies' margin down to eight points. But that's as close as they got. With 2:17 left, the Devils' Kuksiks hit his second 3-pointer of the game to draw the score to 73-65.

Dentmon and Thomas made 7 of 8 free throws to keep ASU at bay as they tried to hit long jumpers to narrow the margin. By the time Brockman made two more from the stripe, the Huskies' margin had grown to 11. Overall Washington shot 76.5 percent from the free-throw line (26-34).

"Our guys did a nice job of knocking their shots down," Romar said. "I thought our guys performed very well. We continued to play with enough poise to pull out with the victory."

After a defensive stop, Thomas released toward the bucket and was rewarded with an easy layup to round out the final score.

After giving up 106 points Thursday at Arizona, the Huskies' focus was on defense, and especially Harden. A change from man-to-man to their 1-3-1 matchup zone look resulted in some forced shots from Arizona State, which allowed the Huskies to get some stops. "When (Harden) doesn't score 20, they aren't as effective," Romar said, matter-of-factly. "He started to get going in the second half, and I thought our zone helped. He definitely got out of rhythm. If he doesn't, he scores 25.

"Justin Holiday and Darnell Gant - what they did behind the scenes...if they don't play today, we don't win. They helped us win in every way. When we contrast the two games and see what difference defense makes, it shows. We have to guard."
Statistics:
Points: Dentmon 30, Thomas 25, Brockman 10, Pondexter 8, Bryan-Amaning 4, Turner 3, Holiday 2, Overton 2 Rebounds: Holiday 10, Brockman 9, Gant 4, Dentmon 2, Thomas 2, Pondexter 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Turner 2
Assists: Turner 3, Dentmon 3, Brockman 2, Holiday 2, Thomas 1
Steals: Brockman 1, Dentmon 1, Overton 1, Holiday 1, Turner 1
Blocks: Gant 1


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