Can Huskies capitalize on contrast?

PORTLAND, Ore. - Friday was Jon Brockman's 22nd birthday, and all he got was a friendly beat-down, courtesy of senior center Artem Wallace. The Husky players insist they've got something special lined up for their star forward, but Washington guard Justin Dentmon knows what the perfect gift would be for Brockman.

"All I can say is that a good birthday present for him would be another trip to the Sweet 16," the senior guard from Carbondale, Ill. told media Friday as the No. 4 seed Huskies were getting ready to practice at the Rose Garden in preparation for their second-round game with the No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers.

Brockman, Dentmon and Wallace - along with center Joe Wolfinger - have a Sweet 16 game under their belts when they played Connecticut in a heartbreaking overtime loss. That was three years ago, but after a 71-58 win over Mississippi State Thursday the Huskies are eyeing another tete-a-tete with the Huskies from the other coast.

The only thing standing in the way of it happening is Purdue, who won the Big-10 Tournament and defeated Northern Iowa in their opening round game. "They are going to be a very tough team," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said Friday. "They're going to be physically tough. We can't get out-competed. And we have to be fundamentally sound."

Despite the apparent contrast in styles - Washington wants to push tempo while Purdue wants to dictate a more conservative pace - the two teams might also hold some clear similarities. The Huskies like to share the wealth offensively; eight players score three or more points a game, with four in double-figures. The Boilermakers, likewise, also have eight players they count on to score at least a trey every contest, with three in double-figures.

Each has diminutive freshmen guards - Isaiah Thomas for Washington and Lewis Jackson for Purdue - that have found their relative niches within the structure of each program.

"They're both very quick and very fierce competitors," Romar said. (Jackson) is a fierce competitor, extremely fast. You have to protect the ball around him. He's a good penetrator in his own right."

"(Jackson) gives us that quickness and hopefully he can do a good job on Thomas," added Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter. "It's a tall order, but you have to do your best to keep Thomas in front of you and turn it around a little bit and put pressure on him. But the one thing that Washington is able to do, they have a lot of ball handlers, so it's not like if Thomas doesn't handle the ball, they don't have anybody to break you down. They still have (Venoy) Overton and (Justin) Dentmon, and still have very, very good lead guards that can hurt you. So it's not just Isaiah Thomas we're worried about. We're worried about all their guards."

Both teams have their defensive stoppers and have forged an identity on that side of the ball. Painter called Washington's Overton the best on-ball defender the Boilermakers will see all year long.

"Our staple is defense, and after watching Washington I would say the same thing," Painter said. "I would say their staple is on the defensive end and getting into people and trying to cause havoc."

The Boilermakers counter with Chris Kramer, an three-time member of the All Big-10 Defensive Team and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year for 2008-2009.

"Defensively, he has a presence," Romar said of the 6-foot-3 Kramer. "I told our guys that he reminds me of a guy that is a student athlete at the University of Washington named Jake Locker. He's a quarterback and he's huge. You look at Kramer, that's what he looks like. He's tough. He's around that basketball. He's got a nose for the ball. You have to be careful when he's around anywhere because he'll steal you blind. Very strong...very strong, physical."

I'm sure Romar wouldn't mind having Locker and his five fouls with him Saturday, as this matchup appears to be heading toward a rough-and-tumble affair. "It's going to be an exciting game for both teams," UW junior forward Quincy Pondexter said. "We don't want our season to end and I know they don't want their season to end tomorrow. It's going to be an all-out war."

Pondexter, who scored a career-high 23 points in the 13-point win over Mississippi State Thursday, is just one of many matchup problems for Purdue, according to Painter, who compared them to Big-10 regular season champs Michigan State.

"(Washington) is third in the nation in rebounding and Michigan State is second in the nation for rebounding," Painter said. "Sometimes with both of those teams, their best offense is a missed shot, as they cave you in on the weak side. You can't do it against Michigan State or Washington. If they're stealing points in transition and they're stealing points on the glass, they're going to win the game."

The common Pac-10 comparison to Purdue is either Washington State or UCLA from last year, teams that had great talent and mixed in stifling defensive pressure with great fundamentals.

"They are going to take care of the ball, won't turn the ball over very often and are very efficient with the ball," Brockman said. The numbers appear to back that up: No. 2 in the Big-10 in scoring (69.4 ppg); No. 1 in scoring margin (10.2 ppg); No. 4 in FG percentage (.447); No. 3 in scoring defense (59.1 ppg); No. 2 in Turnover Margin (+3.47); No. 3 in steals (7.21 spg) and No. 4 in Assist/Turnover ratio (1.30).

Compare those numbers to Washington in the Pac-10: No. 1 in scoring (78.9 ppg); No. 3 in scoring margin (+9.3 ppg); No. 7 in FG percentage (.459); No. 9 in scoring defense (69.6 ppg); No. 5 in Turnover Margin (+0.1); No. 3 in steals (7.6 spg) and No. 9 in Assist/Turnover ratio (.90), and the digits don't lie. Washington wants to push, cause commotion and capitalize on the carnage; Purdue wants to control all aspects of the game.

"They appear to have people that don't care who scores; they are always trying to help each other out by setting screens, make the extra pass...and they are very patient on offense," Brockman added. "They work together as a team very well. They are always moving and are always playing with energy and intensity."

Romar thinks the Boilermakers offer up a wrinkle that might make then an even tougher out on Saturday.

"I don't think there's a Pac-10 team that uses all five guys out on the floor like Purdue does," he said. "Their bigs step out on the floor and can knock the perimeter shot down, everyone on the floor can do that. And with their motion, your bigs, which will be our bigs tomorrow, are placed in positions all over the floor and sometimes guys just aren't comfortable defending out there."

It's no surprise that the keys to Washington's success will be the same keys that have driven them all the way to a Pac-10 regular season championship; they have to play with incredible energy and be the more physical basketball team."

"In every single aspect of the game we have to be physical," said the birthday boy, more than happy to put his own personal dealings on hold to make sure his team keeps their eye on the ball.

"It's easy to get caught up in it and forget that we're here to win games," Brockman added. "It's a business trip."

He won't have to be reminded of that after taking a nasty spill Thursday on a rebound after being undercut by the Bulldogs' Dee Bost.

"I feel great," he remarked, also noting that he's not sure how he escaped injury from the fall, other than a sore wrist.
Home court advantage: Painter is expecting to see more purple in the stands than he did on Thursday, as more Washington fans make the three-hour trip from Seattle and King County to cheer on the Huskies. "They've earned that," Painter said of the proximity of this game to Washington's home. "When you are the Pac-10 champs and you put yourself in the position they were in this year, you earn that home court advantage if you have a site relatively close to you when it comes time for Selection Sunday." Conversely, Purdue won the Big-10 Tournament, but weren't treated with the same kind of hospitality. "When you lose three out of four to finish your year, what are they supposed to think?" he countered. "And now losing those games, did that put us on edge and help us win the Big-10 Tournament? I think it did. So if one of our guys or somebody that's a fan of Purdue doesn't like us being the 5 seed, we should have done a better job. We had opportunities to play. We had opportunities to win more games and we didn't.

Dentmon has ties to Painter: Painter said Friday that he knew about UW guard Justin Dentmon since the sixth grade when he and Bruce Weber were coaching at Southern Illinois, which is located in Dentmon's hometown of Carbondale, Ill. "I had Illinois on my mind at the time," Dentmon said, adding that one of the reasons he didn't sign with SIU at the time was because he wanted to get away from home. He eventually signed with Washington over Illinois State before spending a year at prep school.

How's Breshers doing?: Lost in all the post-season hoopla has been the recovery of Tyreese Breshers, the 6-foot-7 freshman forward who is redshirting this year to recover from a shin/knee injury he suffered while still in high school. "He's going to live up to the hype of being the Charles Barkley-type," Pondexter said of Breshers. "He's really athletic for how big he is and he's going to be a great force for our team."

Breshers is traveling with the team and getting a feel for what it's going to be like next season. He's following the path that Darnell Gant took. Gant redshirted last season. "It's kind of tough, but me and Scott (Suggs) laugh on the bench all the time," Breshers added. "I've kind of accepted the fact that I'm not going to play this year, so I'm keeping my mind on next year."

He added that he's been cleared to run and jump and is currently doing just shooting and ballhandling drills. "My conditioning is not that good, but it's getting better. If I was 100 percent, I don't know how I would play. I haven't played in a year." Top Stories