Home isn't just where the heart is for the Washington Huskies, it's their hope of turning their season around. Playing just their third...
The Washington Huskies were finally home again, though that wasn’t why Lorenzo Romar suddenly felt like undressing.
Instead, the Huskies men’s basketball coach saw a game he regarded as basically a must-win beginning to slip away. And fed up with a call he didn’t like with 13:23 left, he threw his jacket to the ground, earning his first technical foul of the season and one of just four in his Huskies career.
The Huskies scored the next five points to take the lead for good and went on to beat No. 7 Oregon 89-77 and get a win that put some life back in their flagging NCAA tournament hopes.
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It was just UW’s third game at home since Dec. 22, and UW had fallen to eighth place in the Pac-10 Conference by losing all five of its conference road games in that span
At the time Romar was whistled for the technical, Oregon had made up all of an 11-point halftime deficit to tie the score, with Ducks guard Bryce Taylor then making two free throws to put his team ahead 65-63.
Said guard Justin Dentmon: “We came together and said, ‘He [Romar] did that for us; let’s pull it out for him.”
It was Dentmon who heeded the call the most, scoring a career-high 24 points in his first game as a starter since Dec. 31, having come off the bench the last five games because of shaky play early in the season. He also had seven assists and six rebounds for the Huskies (13-7, 2-6 Pac-10).
“Dentmon killed us getting into the middle,” Taylor said.
Oregon (18-2, 6-2) played without senior guard Aaron Brooks, the Pac-10’s leading scorer who was suspended for the game because of throwing a forearm at UW’s Ryan Appleby in the conference tournament last March.
Brooks, a graduate of Seattle’s Franklin High School, accompanied the team to Seattle but wasn’t allowed to come to the arena and was said to be watching the game on TV with his family.
“When you don’t have him, yeah, it’s tough,” said Oregon forward Maarty Leunen. “But they just played better and played tougher.”
The Huskies didn’t care if some might put an asterisk by the victory. This was a game they needed to win to keep their NCAA tourney hopes afloat after losing six of their first seven Pac-10 games.
“Coaches told us in practice we had one more bullet left,” Dentmon said. “We didn’t miss.”
Five of the Huskies’ Pac-10 losses came on the road. The Huskies now play five of seven at home, a stretch that figures to determine the course of the rest of the season.
The good ship Husky seemed ready to go astray, however, when Pondexter was called for his third foul on a scrum for a rebound on the Oregon end, resulting in Romar’s technical.
Asked if he wanted to get a technical foul, Romar said, “I never want a technical foul but … ” adding that technicals often swing momentum in games.
Oregon steadied itself, however, to get to 70-69 with just over seven minutes left. But an Appleby three-pointer and two free throws from Jon Brockman sparked an 11-2 run that put the game away.
Appleby had 16 points for the Huskies, while freshman center Spencer Hawes, coming off the bench after missing the Washington State game with a sprained ankle, had 15, 11 in the second half.
Dentmon said that the Huskies “wanted the game more than they did,” and it seemed to show early as UW busted out to a 12-2 lead.
Oregon came back to take the lead at 21-18, but a 14-0 UW run gave the Huskies a 51-40 lead at halftime — with more points than they scored all game in Saturday’s 71-47 loss at Washington State.
“I thought they played a lot harder than us,” said Oregon coach Ernie Kent, whose team was also without reserve forward Adam Zahn, who suffered a concussion this week in practice, and played seldom-used big men Ray Schafer and Mitch Platt as a result.
That’s exactly what Romar was looking for as he had maintained all along that the Huskies had it in them to turn their poor start around. The Huskies outrebounded Oregon 33-22 and forced 18 turnovers while losing just 11.
“We did the things tonight that would suggest we are headed in a positive direction,” Romar said.