Huskies win battle, lose war

LOS ANGELES - Down 21 in the first half, the only place the Washington Huskies could go was up. They did exactly that against the Arizona State Sun Devils, even moving ahead of ASU at one point, but couldn't overcome James Harden and Derek Glasser as Arizona State beat the Huskies 75-65 to move into the championship game of the 2009 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament.

"We knew they were going to come out and fight hard," UW forward Jon Brockman said of the Sun Devils. "We said that this is going to be a war. It was going to be heated and intense."

The Huskies (25-8, 14-4) were led by the 17 points of Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas. Brockman tallied 13, while guard Justin Dentmon added 11. The senior class of Brockman, Dentmon and Artem Wallace never made the championship game in their time at UW. Arizona State (24-8, 11-7), playing without the injured Jamelle McMillan, used only seven players, but four of them scored in double-figures: James Harden with 24, Jeff Pendergraph with 18, Derek Glasser with 16 and Ty Abbott with 12.

The loss was the first ever for UW in Pac-10 Tournament semifinal games, having won their other three chances.

Washington furiously overcame a start that could politely be considered sluggish. They were 7-30 from the field during the first 20 minutes and out-rebounded 24-15 during that same stretch. ASU, by way of comparison, had one less 3-point make than UW had total field goals. But two plays helped the Huskies claw their way back: a four-point play by Dentmon to end the first half; and a James Harden layin that resulted in three technical fouls, two on ASU.

"I thought we were just a little impatient against their zone," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said of the Huskies' first-half woes. Overall, Washington shot 20-67 (.298) in their first halves against Stanford and ASU. "When we slowed things down and got ball reversal, we got better looks. When we get impatient at times, things can go downhill. Against Arizona State you just don't have quick, open looks."

The four-point play was a made Dentmon three from the right corner with one second remaining. He was fouled by ASU's Ty Abbott, and made the free throw. The mess with the technicals was initiated when Harden and Venoy Overton bumped into each other after Harden was fouled by Quincy Pondexter on a made layup. Overton, falling down, took Glasser with him, and Glasser took exception when Overton tried to get back up. The teams had to be restrained, and technicals were given to all three players involved.

"Just guys competing and playing hard," Brockman said of the incident. "When that happens, sometimes bodies get banged around and feelings get hurt. Sometimes games just get heated like that."

By that time, the 13:43 mark of the second half, the Huskies had erased five points of an Arizona State 17-point lead, their biggest deficit all season. They blew out the remaining 13 and even went up by four at 54-50 after a Pondexter layup, in just over four minutes.

The Sun Devils were fully intent on winning the war. Riding their big three of Harden, Pendergraph and Glasser, they scored the final 25 points of the night. Glasser's made 3-pointer with 3:27 left to push ASU's lead up to seven was the dagger that put the Dawgs away for good.

"Washington's a great team," Harden said. "We knew they were going to make a run. All we had to do is keep our composure. And I think we did a pretty good job of that."

"I didn't really make any adjustments," ASU Head Coach Herb Sendek said afterward. "We just talked about maintaining our poise and composure and giving great effort. We had the lead in large part at the half, because of our defense. It had evaporated, so we talked about hunkering down on defense and just maintaining our composure."

"(Arizona State) stepped up and hit some big shots," Romar added. Derek Glasser hit some big shots. Jeff Pendergraph hit some big shots. They came through when they needed to." Overall, the Sun Devils shot 50 percent (26-52) for the game, and they are 29-1 under Sendek when they shoot 50 percent or better.

UW did well defensively to start the game, shutting Arizona State out for the first 4:48, but the Sun Devils went on a 33-15 run after Elston Turner's 3-pointer gave Washington an 11-5 lead. The 21 first-half points was its fewest since they scored 20 against Washington State last season.

"I thought we came out with great energy on the defensive end," Romar said. "We moved our feet and were quick to the ball. ASU did a great job of maintaining their poise throughout that, and they chipped away and chipped away. We had difficulty putting the ball in the basket early. With that combination they were slowly able to jump out ahead of us."

Out of the running for a Pac-10 Tournament crown, the league winners will anxiously await their NCAA Tournament fate at Bank of America Arena Sunday afternoon. They are expected to earn either a No. 3 or 4 seed, and if they stay out west would play their first-round game at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.

"We expect to be part of the field," Romar said. "Where we'll go and how high we'll be seeded, that's in the committee's hands. We're fortunate that we have this opportunity, and wherever were sent, whoever we're going to play, we just have to make the best of it."
Statistics:
Points: Thomas 17, Brockman 13, Dentmon 11, Pondexter 8, Overton 4, Suggs 3, Turner 3, Gant 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 2
Rebounds: Pondexter 8, Brockman 6, Gant 4, Overton 4, Thomas 3, TEAM 3, Turner 2, Dentmon 1, Bryan-Amaning 1, Holiday 1
Assists: Dentmon 4, Overton 3, Brockman 2, Pondexter 1, Holiday 1, Turner 1
Steals: Thomas 2, Overton 2, Gant 1, Holiday 1
Blocks: None


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