If one were to just look at their scoring averages, you might conclude that the Washington Huskies would have little problem against a much improved Portland State team 96 - 86 on Saturday at Seattle at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Instead, fans were treated to a 105-73 blowout against a former Washington assistant coach. That's why you play the game.
For both Lorenzo Romar, and Viking's coach Ken Bone, their friendship became the focus of hype this week in the media. Bone was a UW assistant coach, and following the UW's trip to the final four in 2005, Bone took the Portland State job, and hasn't looked back. Their program is now on the upswing, having their best 10-game record in eight years.
That said, the Vikings - who have had insight into Washington's program that few teams can speak of, they could not translate that knowledge into a victory. They had no answer for an improved UW defense, and were out-matched, and out-gunned from the beginning.
Super-freshmen Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter led the high-powered Washington attack, which saw five Huskies to score in double figures. Hawes scored 16 points going 7-for-8, with five blocked shots - four in the first half. Pondexter had 16 points, Ryan Appleby had 15 in a reserve role, and Brandon Burmeister pumped in 11.
Washington shot 59.7 percent from the field, their season-best.
Despite four Washington turnovers in six possessions, PSU could only hang with Washington for about six minutes before a Hawes breakaway dunk made the score 16-6 Huskies. The writing was on the wall early for PSU.
"We took this game as a game we needed to bounce back and just forget about that loss," said emerging team leader Justin Dentmon.
"Coach said this was our best defensive effort all year in terms as far as working hard the whole game."
The talented sophomore - and the rest of the Huskies - were slow starters in the first half, but Justin talked himself into stepping up his game, and he produced with a strong second half. Dentmon led all scorers with 18 points, and perhaps because Hawes played only 23 minutes, Jon Brockman 20, and Pondexter 23, he led all rebounders with 7.
"It was open tonight, I just went to the ball," said a smiling Dentmon following the game as he described how he accomplished the feat.
"I felt my push wasn't as strong in the first half, just told myself I had to push (myself) harder, and once i did, more stuff started opening up."
Ryan Sommer, whose job it was to guard Dentmon, and the rest of the Vikings, did it in a very physical way, and may have contributed to Dentmon's early frustration. Sommer led his team in scoring with 14 points, and had 6 assists.
In this game, all but one Husky scored. That person was starter Adrian Oliver, who suffered a mild concussion at some point during the action, but coach Romar was not sure what happened or when at the press conference. Later, it was said Oliver caught an elbow to the head, which left him dizzy and nauseous.
Romar told media the freshman guard should be alright after a day off Sunday.
As for the cause of Washington's slow start, and physical play of PSU, "They hit the boards hard a little bit," explained Dentmon.
"We just had to concentrate on boxing out, get them off the glass. Once we did that..." and his voice trailed off.
In practice leading up to the game, coach Romar promised more intense workouts, but Dentmon was not phased by the intensity, saying "We were just focusing on rebounding, defense and shot selection."
At least for this game, they learned their lessons. Hopefully they can take that into one of the Huskies biggest challenges of the year against number 12-ranked LSU.
Coach Romar was not quite as positive, saying, "Every game with this team you hope that you are going to get better. With every game, and every practice, we learn a little bit more about what is going to be comfortable for us. We are not near where we need to be, but this week we have made progress."
What really stood out Saturday was Washington's solid buzzer to buzzer effort on defense which held PSU to 38% shooting, and the Huskies dominated on the backboards again. Normally out-rebounding opponents by an average of over 13 per game, did so Saturday by a 44-26 margin.
"We have been wanting to see if we could string together 40 minutes of the Husky basketball that we know we can play." said coach Romar.
Washington looked like they could have won this game by 50 points. The big three guys only averaged 21 minutes, and they forced Portland State to foul just to slow the tempo of the Husky offense. PSU struggled to stay with the Huskies, and lost two key players, Deonte Huff and Dupree Lucas who both fouled out with significant time remaining in the game.
The Huskies seem to have grown up a little, and made strides to shake off the drubbing from Gonzaga the previous Saturday. LSU is next, and the Huskies are only looking forward.