SEATTLE – The Washington Huskies were off to a slow start against Oregon State on Thursday, Feb. 12, when an announcement was made over the public address system: The UCLA Bruins had lost in Tempe, Ariz.
The sellout crowd of 10,000 erupted in cheers as the stakes were set: A Washington Huskies’ win over Oregon State would return them to the top of the Pacific-10 Conference standings.
The announcement didn’t work instant magic, as UW struggled well into the second half before eventually rolling past the Beavers 79-60 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“As my good buddy Steve Lavin used to say, ‘Sometimes you just have to move the chains,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I thought that’s kind of how we played tonight. Oregon State does a great job of really challenging you. They do a good job of defending you. They play smart basketball.”
Until the final 10 mintues, this one was quite a difference from the teams’ first meeting January 17, when the Huskies roared to a 26-point victory.
OSU coach Craig Robinson had challenged his team after that game, and they had responded by winning four of the six games since.
Their improvement was on display Thursday as they came into the Huskies’ house, led by seven early, and didn’t let the game get out of hand until the final 10 minutes.
They pushed their 1-3-1 zone all the way out to the W at center court, and for a long while the UW guards had trouble adjusting. Then, when the Huskies got inside the goal, they had trouble finishing.
But the biggest change was the way they attacked the boards. After being outrebounded 46-19 in the earlier meeting, Oregon State outrebounded UW 33-32 in the rematch.
It wasn’t enough, largely because UW senior guard Justin Dentmon had another one of those games that had stirred player-of-the-year talk a week or so ago. Dentmon ended with a game-high 28 points, two off his career high. And that sent him sailing past Nate Robinson and Andra Griffin into 19th place on the UW career scoring list with 1,295 career points.
“Justin Dentmon had another phenomenal basketball game,” Romar said. “He passed it, scored it, made big shots and played defense. Again, he played like a senior.”
The Huskies also picked up lots of energy from sophomore guard Venoy Overton, who contributed nine points, six assists and five rebounds. As a team, they started taking better care of the ball: 10 turnovers in the first half, four in the second. And they started shooting better: 36 percent from the field in the first half, 64 percent in the second.
Oregon State (10-13 overall, 4-8 Pac-10) was led by guard Calvin Haynes, who had 15 points after beginning the game on the bench – along with usual starting forward Daniel Deane - an apparent disciplinary move.
And with the win, Washington (18-6, 9-3) is once again alone atop the Pac-10 standings, a half-game ahead of the Bruins (19-5, 8-3).
“It’s great to be back in first place,” junior Quincy Pondexter said. “But it can be short-lived in this conference because it’s tough. We’ve got to chip away one game at a time. We’ve got Oregon on Saturday, and we’ve got to come out and play as hard as we can.”
The Huskies conclude this two-game homestand at noon Saturday, Feb. 14, against the Ducks, who fell to 0-12 in conference play with a loss at Washington State on Thursday.