The Washington Huskies would never choose to play a game without leading scorer and rebounder Jon Brockman.
But with Brockman unable to go Sunday due to an ankle sprain, coach Lorenzo Romar admits that he was curious to see how his team would respond.
Nice start? Check.
Played well with the lead? Check.
Efficiently finish off an out-manned opponent. Nope.
With Brockman watching from the bench, the Huskies let Portland State chip 16 points away from a 17-point second-half lead. But in the end, Washington (6-3) had just enough to escape with an 84-83 win before a crowd of 7,280 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“I’ll state the obvious: I didn’t like the way we finished the ball game,” Romar said. “Give Portland State a lot of credit for hanging in there and persevering and being relentless in continuing to come back. (But we had) a few ill-advised turnovers, a couple of bad shots, and then next thing you know they cut it down to nine, eight...”
The Vikings (7-2) cut it down all the way to one with just over a minute remaining. But then a Quincy Pondexter tip in that ended a 16-1 Portland State run. And two clutch Justin Dentmon free throws at the end proved just enough to give the Huskies their fourth straight win.
“Jon’s a guy that puts out a lot of fires for our team,” Pondexter said. “So, when he wasn’t it there it was really hard because a lot of plays that you think someone’s going to make, they’re not making them because he isn’t there. He’s a great force for our team on the defensive end just being in the right spots and leading us and talking to us, and it hurt for him not to be out there.”
Brockman sprained his right ankle in a fall during practice Saturday. No one seemed to think much of it at the time, but it ballooned overnight, and finally the game-time decision was made to give him the night off.
Brockman is expected to miss some practice time this week, but he should be back when UW returns to action Saturday against Eastern Washington.
He was replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who produced Brockman-like numbers: 23 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs.
“It’s not as if I’m saying when he’s not there I’m going to do a better job,” Bryan-Amaning said. “Even just coming out of the locker room (Sunday after the game) we spoke about it. He said, ‘I can’t wait until I get healthy again so we can do that together.’”
Pondexter had 20 points, Dentmon 20 and Isaiah Thomas 16.
Even without Brockman, UW controlled the boards, 46-35.
Portland State received better injury news as Jeremiah Dominguez -- last season’s Big Sky Conference player of the year – was cleared to play after missing his two previous games with a finger injury. He was one of five Vikings scoring in double figures. Leading the way was guard Dominic Waters, who had 19 points off the bench. Also contributing was former Husky Phil Nelson, with 13.
Nelson’s game followed the same arc as his team, as he got off to a miserable start, hitting two of his first 10 shots including a couple of airballs that drew taunts from the Dawg Pack student section.
However, Nelson finished strong, nailing three straight 3-pointers down the stretch – although he missed his last one with 14 second left that would have tied it.
“I thought he came out and he was real tentative – extremely tentative in the first half,” said PSU coach Ken Bone, a former UW assistant under Romar. “And I told him at halftime, ‘If you get open, fire it. I don’t care if you miss, fire it. You’re all right.’ Because we all know he’s a great shooter. Yet, I think right now he’s still trying to figure out: ‘Should I, or shouldn’t I?’ And he should.”