Wearing the road uniforms for the first time this season, the Huskies came out as a purple blur while taking a 25-6 lead that they never relinquished despite a second-half surge from Southern Cal. Playing as if he had been fitted with a new bionic ankle, Bobby Jones broke out with 22 points, a season-high nine rebounds, and three acrobatic swats as Washington turned back the Trojans 86-77 in their last trip to the well-worn Los Angeles Sports Arena. Brandon Roy's third double-double of the season—23 points and 13 rebounds—compensated for the Huskies' season-worst 28 turnovers and 21 second-half points from the Trojans' Gabe Pruitt.
After going 0-for-6 in the first half, Pruitt scored seven points in the first 79 seconds after the break, including a four point play, to trim the lead to 47-39. The sophomore sharpshooter drilled four more treys in the second half and reserve guard Dwayne Shackleford hit two free throws to cap a 13-5 run as the Men of Troy pulled within three points, 73-70, with 5:53 left. But unlike the last game versus Washington State, the Dawgs were able to stop the momentum early enough to survive. Jones and senior Mike Jensen assisted each other on two crucial 3-pointers and a steal by Justin Dentmon lead to a Jones dunk that gave Washington a more comfortable lead, 81-72. The Huskies (13-2, 2-2) held USC without a field goal for more than five minutes down the stretch to cement their sixth win over Southern Cal in the last seven meetings.
Washington made good on its vow to improve its defensive and rebounding efforts, holding USC to 40 percent shooting and decisively clearing the boards, 47-24. The entire squad came out with greater purpose as the Huskies got eight of its first 14 points from Jamaal Williams and Jon Brockman, who was more aggressive in looking for his shot. Williams bounced back from the WSU loss with 14 points and improved positioning, while Brockman finished with nine points and seven rebounds even though the majority of his 22 minutes came against the 6-foot-11 Abdoulaye N'diaye. The freshman forward was spelled by Jensen (seven points, five boards) in crunch time as coach Lorenzo Romar used Jensen's range to pull N'diaye from the post.
"When we build these leads there's something to that. That's no fluke," said Romar. "We're good enough to do that. It's just a matter of sustaining that effort. And I thought tonight we did sustain that effort. Maybe we made some poor decisions defensively (leaving Pruitt open) and we didn't take care of the basketball. But when they came back it was not due to a lack of effort on our part."
The UW cause was aided as the Trojans (11-5, 2-3) missed several open looks early in the second half. Their comeback effort lost some spark when point guard Ryan Francis fouled out with 8:23 remaining. Francis had been a major distributor (five assists, 11 points) and disruptor, with his pressure leading to several of Dentmon's seven turnovers. With Ryan Appleby under the weather and not up to the Francis challenge, Roy took the point on a number of possessions and tallied four assists to complement Dentmon's seven.
"Their point guard is a freshman, but Francis is as scrappy a guy that I've seen in college basketball since we played UAB with Squeaky Johnson," Romar remarked. "He's all over the floor. We were forced into a lot of turnovers tonight, but we really dominated on the glass and that kind of compensated for us turning the ball over."
Jones appears to have regained his springs as he made several hustle plays and covered some real estate to block two breakaway layups. The former Long Beach Poly star who grew up 10 miles south of the USC campus in Compton came through for the Huskies with 15 first-half points and 4-of-8 shooting behind the arc.
"It's been a while since I've had a couple good games. I kind of forgot how that felt," said Jones, the senior co-captain. "I'm glad I had a good game in front of my parents and in my last time playing here at the Sports Arena. Now we just have to carry over and get ready for Saturday."
The more balanced scoring and rebounding numbers were particularly encouraging as the Huskies prepare to play UCLA. Roy had dominated the stat sheet without much scoring support in the three previous Pac-10 games and the Dawgs were lackadaisical in blocking out the Cougars, getting outrebounded last weekend 32-28.
"There were a lot of questions about how we would handle our first road game and I thought we did a pretty good job," Romar said. "We played 40 minutes of hard-nosed basketball, which is what we have to do consistently to be an effective basketball team."
A physical game that saw an unusual number of charge calls almost boiled over with 16:43 remaining when N'diaye clobbered Brockman in the head to prevent a layup. With the freshman sprawled on the floor, Jones expressed his displeasure by shoving the Trojans' center and the benches cleared. Williams and Lodrick Stewart had to be separated, but the UW coaching staff and the referees restored order.
"We're not going to back down to anybody," said Jones, who had been on the receiving end of a hard foul from N'diaye earlier.
Brockman responded with his best game in conference action, keeping the Trojan bigs off the boards. "He was active right from the start," said Romar, noting a more assertive presence.
Stewart, the Seattle transplant, traded baskets with Jones at the end of the half and finished with 15 points and three steals. Swingman Nick Young also chipped in 15 points and was the leading SC rebounder with five.
The Husky backcourt, which had a combined 16 turnovers, will be pivotal as they take on No. 11 UCLA, which remained atop the conference standings with a 63-61 victory over WSU that was in question until Kyle Weaver missed a layup attempt at the buzzer. Guard Arron Afflalo added three points of his 18 points in the final 28 seconds as the Bruins held on after limiting the Cougars to 17 points in the first half.
Though slightly bedeviled by Francis, Dentmon's final line read 6-6-6 (points, rebounds, assists) for the Dawgs. Joel Smith added a highlight with a steal and dunk to put the purple people up by 19 in the first half. Looking pastier than usual, Appleby was held scoreless but handed out two assists in eight minutes of action. He has a day to get well before the Saturday afternoon showdown at Pauley Pavilion.
In the meantime, the Huskies can take solace in evening their conference record after the home losses. As the only winner amongst the three road teams Thursday night—Arizona was upended in Corvallis—Washington is one of six teams with two conference losses.
"That was a gut check," said Roy, who had another impressive game. "That's what we were looking for after the last two weeks."
UW Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Roy 23, Jones 22, Williams 14, Brockman 9, Jensen 7, Dentmon 6, Smith 5
Rebounds: Roy 12, Jones 9, Brockman 7, Dentmon 6, Jensen 5
Assists: Dentmon 6, Roy 4, Williams 3