At ease at home, Huskies top USC

  • By Mike Allende / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, March 1, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Doctor Jekyll showed up again for the Washington men’s basketball team Thursday, though he looked more like Mr. Hyde to USC.

Continuing a season-long trend in which the Huskies look like a team capable of making a deep NCAA Tournament run at home, Washington got a little bit inside and a little bit outside and upset the No. 23 Trojans 85-70 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The win snaps a four-game losing streak for the Huskies (7-10 Pacific-10, 17-12 overall), who improved to 16-2 at home. Washington is 1-10 on the road.

Coupled with Cal’s 70-65 loss to Arizona, the Huskies clinched the No. 7 seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament, where they are likely to meet last-place Arizona State in the first round. USC fell to 11-6 in the conference, 21-9 overall.

The Huskies continue to not have any real explanation for why they look so good at home only to fall apart on the road. Ryan Appleby, who led the UW with 22 points, said most of it comes down to simply being comfortable at Hec Ed.

“At home, a lot of guys are more in their comfort zone,” said Appleby, who was 5-for-7 on 3-pointers. “They’re used to shooting on their home-town rims. Everybody’s cheering for you, they want you to do well. On the road, there’s a lot of negative energy.”

Appleby’s barrage from the outside led a Washington effort that saw it go 10-for-18 on 3-pointers, the most threes it has made since a double-overtime loss to USC in the Pac-10 opener on Dec. 28. Justin Dentmon made three 3-pointers in the first seven minutes of the game and had one of his best performances this season, scoring 12 points and having no turnovers. As a team, the Huskies turned the ball over just 10 times, its fewest since the win over LSU on Dec. 20.

Washington also shot 52 percent overall and outscored USC 23-7 from the foul line.

“We did some things that we’ve been doing for some time now, we just haven’t had the wins to show for it,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Our guys played good (and) stepped up offensively. We were efficient offensively.”

The Huskies also got solid games from their inside duo of Jon Brockman (17 points, nine rebounds) and Spencer Hawes (13 points, seven rebounds). Hawes scored eight of his points over a 2 minute, 11 second span late in the second half in which Washington held off a late USC charge.

“We needed guys to get back, rotate, run the floor and find a guy,” USC coach Tim Floyd said. “We have been pretty good at it all year long and that is why we have been able to rob people, but we didn’t do a good job tonight.”

Like Washington, the game itself had contrasting personalities. The first half was a physical, wide-open game that saw plenty of back-and-forth offense.

But after Floyd was assessed a technical foul late in the first half for arguing with an official following a foul away from the ball on the UW’s Quincy Pondexter, the referees clamped down in the second half, calling anything that remotely approached being a foul.

Consequently, the pace of the game slowed down as 28 of the 42 fouls called came after halftime. The Huskies took advantage, going 18-for-22 from the foul line to 6-for-12 by the Trojans.

Appleby sank four of his 3-pointers during a 19-7 run late in the second half that gave the Huskies a 44-30 lead, and Quincy Pondexter had a pair of three-point plays early in the second half that made it 58-41 Washington.

But behind the play of junior guard Nick Young, USC came back. Young scored 13 of his game-high 26 points in the second half (he was 11-for-15 overall), and his jump shot with 7:22 left cut the lead to 67-62.

With the margin still at five, though, UW backup center Artem Wallace, who entered the game shooting 33 percent from the foul line, made three-straight free throws to extend the lead to eight.

After a Gabe Pruitt layup, Hawes made two free throws and followed with a turnaround jump shot to make it a 10-point game and USC never got closer than eight the rest of the way. The Trojans were 1-for-11 on 3-pointers in the second half.

“Those free throws were big,” Romar said of Wallace’s shots. “Jon was in foul trouble, you keep coming down the floor and coming up empty. Those guys are hard to stop. …Those were big, big free throws.”

Appleby said Washington has been able to have so much success against USC from the outside because the Trojans focus on taking away a team’s top scorers, in this case Hawes and Brockman.

“They worry about our inside a lot,” Appleby said. “When we’re coming off those screens, they weren’t having their bigs help as much. So we were getting a lot of space to get open.”

Pruitt had 13 points for USC, but just two in the second half, and Taj Gibson had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Washington now will try to maintain its momentum as it plays host to No. 2 UCLA in a nationally-televised game at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Bruins wrapped up the Pac-10 regular-season title with a victory over No. 13 Washington State Thursday.

“How good can we get for the next two weeks?” Romar said. “We said that at the beginning of the week. To come out and play this way, we showed we made a little progress tonight and hopefully we can make a little more on Saturday.”

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