SEATTLE — Clearly, the bar has been raised for Washington.
With every win, expectations seem to climb higher for Lorenzo Romar and his team.
Fresh off a 103-84 victory over Oregon, the postgame talk was more about what the Huskies didn’t do well in Saturday’s win at a sold out Hec Edmundson Pavilion than it was about holding a 11/2-game lead in the Pacific-10 Conference standings this late in the season.
Washington bullied the Ducks in the first half while building a 24-point halftime lead. Then the Huskies seemed to shift into cruise control. They slacked off a bit on defense, got a little careless with the ball and even though the outcome was never in danger, they let the Ducks outscore them 59-54 in the second half.
“Obviously we won the game, that’s good,” Lorenzo Romar said. “We can’t allow ourselves to let what happened in the second half happen.”
The Huskies, 19-6 overall and 10-3 in the Pac-10, are a near lock for an NCAA tournament berth and in the driver’s seat in the race for a conference title. Yet, they’re far from happy after an effort like Saturday’s.
“What we need to realize is that we can be a lot better,” said senior forward Jon Brockman, who finished with 21 points and tied a career-high with 18 rebounds. “We can’t get complacent, we can’t get comfortable with where we’re at.”
And where they are at is a pretty good spot. Thanks to UCLA’s loss to Arizona Saturday, the Huskies are a game and a half clear of the Bruins, California and Arizona State, which plays USC today.
Next for Washington is Thursday’s showdown with the Bruins in Los Angeles.
“This is about to be a lot of fun,” said senior guard Justin Dentmon, who finished with 21 points to give him 49 in Washington’s two wins this week. “This is where champions come out and play. The light is on. We’ve just got to come out and perform.”
Isaiah Thomas scored 24 to lead Washington, which had four players score 20 or more points. In addition to Brockman, Dentmon and Thomas, Quincy Pondexter added 20 points, his third time scoring 20 or more in four games.
“That really shows we can attack from a lot of different areas and we have a lot of different guys who can put the ball in the hoop,” Brockman said. “That’s hard for teams to guard because if you double team someone, someone else is wide open on the other side.”
While the Huskies were a balanced team, the Ducks were nearly a one-man show in the second half when Tajuan Porter lit up Washington for 27 of his 33 points. Porter, who made just two of 10 field-goal attempts in the first half, was 8-for-12 in the second. He made six of Oregon’s 10 3-point field goals, all of which came in the second half.
The biggest bright spot in the second half for Washington was Brockman’s performance. He had just five points and five rebounds in the first half, but had 16 points and 13 rebounds in the second.
“Things opened up a lot,” Brockman said. “I think our guys did a little bit better of a job looking inside and playing inside and out. J.D. was on fire in the first half, which stretched them out a little bit, gave me a little bit more room to work inside. Our guys did a great job of getting the ball in there.”
But aside from Brockman’s performance, the Huskies felt like their second-half effort was lacking.
“I think we were just playing just to finish out the game,” said Dentmon, who scored 14 in the first half. “We weren’t really attacking like we was in the first half. I think that gave them confidence to go down and make shots.”
So while the Huskies are rolling and alone in first place with five conference games remaining, there is still work to be done.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com/huskiesblog