Instead of waving white flags after a road game, the Washington Huskies were instead wearing white T-shirts. Emblazoned in purple letters...
TEMPE, Ariz. — Instead of waving white flags after a road game, the Washington Huskies were instead wearing white T-shirts.
Emblazoned in purple letters on the new duds, handed out by the coaches earlier on Thursday, was “Hard work + toughness = road win.”
And for once, the Huskies solved the equation properly, outlasting Arizona State 66-61 at Wells Fargo Arena to get their first road win this season in their seventh try.
“Those are some of the things the coaches have been saying all along,” said Huskies forward Jon Brockman, proudly wearing one of the shirts afterward. “That’s going to be our little slogan the rest of the year.”
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The equation for this game, however, almost read “Great start + harried finish = disaster.”
The Huskies played their best first half of the season in taking a 23-point halftime lead, then blew almost all of it, allowing Arizona State to close to 61-58 with less than a minute left.
But Justin Dentmon then made the kind of play missing too often for the Huskies in previous road games, sinking a floating jumper in the lane to put Washington ahead 63-58 with 41 seconds to play.
The Huskies have won three in a row and improved to 14-7 overall and 4-6 in Pac-10 play.
“I’m focusing on the first half,” said coach Lorenzo Romar. “We’ve got to bottle that and duplicate that. The second half was another growing experience. That’s the first time we’ve had a lead like that on the road and we didn’t handle it right. That’s a learning experience.”
The Huskies shot 65.4 percent (17 of 26) in the first half, leading 40-16 with just more than four minutes left and 44-21 at the break. Spencer Hawes had 10 of his 13 points in the first half to lead a balanced attack, as the Huskies time and again exploited Arizona State’s 2-3 zone defense.
“That’s the best half we’ve played all year,” Romar said.
But any thoughts that Arizona State (6-15, 0-10) might give up evaporated when the Sun Devils opened the second half on an 11-2 run.
Then things really got interesting.
With 13:16 left and Washington up 48-38, ASU’s Antwi Atuahene was called for a foul during a scramble for the ball with Ryan Appleby.
Arizona State coach Herb Sendek protested, then raised his hands as if to implore the crowd — which was already booing — to voice its displeasure even louder. Official Michael Reed called a technical on Sendek, and Appleby made the two ensuing free throws. When Sendek didn’t stop, Reed called another technical, ejecting Sendek from the game.
Sendek, in his first year at ASU and 14th overall as a head coach, said it was the first time he had been ejected and said he was merely trying to get the fans to cheer for Atuahene.
“I wanted the crowd to recognize the special play,” Sendek said. “I wasn’t doing it to incite the crowd to berate the officials.”
Arizona State seemed to play even more inspired from then on, quickly cutting the lead to single digits. Washington players, however, mostly blamed themselves.
“I think there was a stretch where we played timid,” Hawes said.
Romar agreed, saying, “The crowd got into it, no doubt about it. But that had nothing to do with our performance in the second half. We were our own worst enemy.”
The Huskies made just 5 of 21 shots in the second half (23.8 percent) and had 13 of their 19 turnovers after the break.
And when Allen Morrill hit two free throws with 1:14 left to make it 61-58, it seemed as if that elusive road win might never come.
But with the shot clock running down, Dentmon made the shot to put Washington up five. And after an ASU miss, he hit two free throws with 24 seconds left to salt it away.
“I’m fired up,” Romar said. “We have to play better and take care of the ball. But we’ve won three in a row. Maybe others can try to discourage that [because of the second half]. But I’m pretty happy.”
The Huskies now head to Tucson, where they will face a reeling Arizona team that has lost six of eight.
And they’ll take their T-shirts with them, Brockman predicting that there could be reason to put them on again.
“I’m going to wear it all night,” he said. “And it might make an appearance Saturday afternoon.”