It required just 65 hours of the new year for the commencement of a successful exorcism of Seattle'ês local-sports demons of 2008. By 5 p.m. Saturday both Washington Husky basketball programs had put the alpha woof to cross-state rival Washington State, the UW men triumphing for the first time in eight tries against a Cougar unit they hadn'êt beaten in nearly four years. The UW women (5-6) won impressively, 71-58, but expectedly, seeing as how it came amid the comfort of the home court and was the 27th straight victory against the Wazzu program.
The men'ês win meant a lot more. Maybe it wasn'êt quite enough to set up momentum leading to the resurrection of the other local sports organizations that collapsed last year. But it'ês a promising start for a local team playing confidently and, during the second half, dominantly in a Pac-10 basketball conference with no obvious talent hierarchy. The men had just one bucket six minutes into the game and led by only two at half. Then they swished, swatted and swaggered their way to a 38-20 second frame, prevailing 68-48 in the inhospitable confines of Wazzu'ês Friel Court and running the season record to 10-3.
Rebounding machine Jon Brockman during the recent four seasons often has been the first name mentioned in coverage of Husky hoops. Notable, then, is the fact that a pair of guards and an over-performing forward led the team'ês best league-opener in years. Freshman Isaiah Thomas is becoming the team'ês marquee moniker, possibly because his name is 'êMagic Johnson,'ê er, Isaiah Thomas, similar to that of 'êIsiah'ê Thomas, a certain Detroit Pistons mega-star of recent decades. But a substitute Husky point guard, Justin Dentmon, let everybody know that he hasn'êt gone away, woth the senior (a starter two years ago) canning four of four from beyond the three-point arc and adding 17 points to Thomas'ês 19. The Thomas total included nine-for-ten shooting from the free-throw line, itself something of a revelation (and needed example) for a program that, during recent seasons, had been attempting the one-pointers as if the Dawgs had been launching them with their hind paws.
But the fact that junior Quincy Pondexter excelled during a game when Brockman had a modest 10 points and four rebounds is what must certainly give coach Lorenzo Romar added hope going into a suddenly promising league schedule. Pondexter had been a top prospect; but spotty performance his first two seasons seemed to make him something of a dubious 'êget'ê by the Romar recruiters. Against the Cougs the lanky forward was the Huskies'ê indispensable man, clogging up the middle, knifing to the basket and accumulating 17 points and seven rebounds.
The skills of all of the above will be tested very soon. A visit Thursday by a diminished Stanford program is followed by a Saturday date with a Cal team on the ascent in the Pac-10. The following week features away meetings with the Oregon schools. Few believe that a down season for Oregon (82-63 losers to USC this week) will keep the Ducks and their rabid fans from being in full quack-smack Jan. 15. Two days later the Dawgs are in Corvallis to face the inept but newsworthy Oregon State Beavers, led as they are by Craig Robinson, brother-in-law of Isaiah Thomas, er, Barack Obama.
The Husky men'ês victory against an inexplicably listless Wazzu team doesn'êt, of course, augur a World Series championship for the Seattle Mariners (61-101 in 'ê08) or a Super Bowl or Rose Bowl for the local football teams that went a combined 4-24 last year. But while it isn'êt yet an exorcism of the city'ês worst sports year ever, for many observers the convincing win sure beats the hell out of what they recently endured.