If asked in late December whether they'êd have accepted a 7-2 league record halfway through conference play this season, University of Washington Husky basketball coaches would have risked neck injuries nodding in the affirmative. One coach, Lorenzo Romar, achieved such a goal. The other, Tia Jackson, faces a second half trying to rise from the netherworld of a 1-8 conference mark, tied for worst in league but even worse that worst because of a Pac-10-low overall mark of 5-14.
For those just now awaking from 29-day comas, yep, it'ês the same Husky women'ês contingent that shared the conference lead (albeit, at 1-0) after a polished dispatching of their cross-state rivals Jan. 3. But the 71-58 'êW'ê against Washington State was soon followed by an 'êL'ê for the ages. Stanford triumphed 112-35, a margin of victory that some old-timers believe hadn'êt been recorded since the last time the Boston Celtics played Sealth High School.
After the Stanford loss it shouldn'êt have surprised many that the women would lose their next seven. What few fans could have anticipated was that the UW team'ês average point deficit through the eight-straight losses would be 22, skewed by the pratfall at Stanford. The women actually revived their program somewhat in late January with respectable consecutive eight-point road losses to USC and UCLA. But an 80-64 spanking at home against Arizona State Saturday (Jan. 31) left little hope of a second-half revival. It also prompted repeated musings about the future of Jackson'ês tutorship, which no doubt is being assessed by administrators within the Husky athletic department.
To console them, these managers of Husky sports can enjoy the success of the men'ês team. After Saturday'ês 84-71 solid road win against Arizona State, the Dawg-men are locks for the NCAA tournament. They could lose their remaining four road games and still get to the conference playoffs with a record of 22-9. That they may actually win some or even all of the four in the Bay Area and Los Angeles is a tribute to the team play Romar and his assistants have engendered. It also has a lot to do with one individual, Justin Dentmon.
Against ASU (ranked 14th nationally before consecutive losses to the Washington schools), the senior guard played something approaching a perfect game. His 30 points included four three-pointers and 10 of 11 free-throw shooting. He played all but three minutes but had just one foul.
What makes his numbers even more astonishing is that Sun Devil defenders were eminently aware that Dentmon is the Huskies'ê main scoring threat. But ASU couldn'êt afford to commit all the attention to Dentmon because his backcourt mate, freshman Isaiah Thomas, can be counted on to penetrate for a score or pop one from the perimeter. As it happened, Thomas had 25 points, making it one of the greatest displays ever by a UW tandem of guards.
The Dawgs weren'êt as commanding as usual in rebounding, controlling the boards just 35 to 32. But they marginalized league-leading scorer James Harden, holding him to 15 points, seven below his average. The Huskies also drew six more fouls than they gave up and led the opponent by double figures for much of the game.
The win was a relief for fans who had watched Thursday night with horrified fascination as Arizona bested the Dawgs 106-97. For the Huskies, ranked 23rd nationally at the time, the UA game was something of a mirror image of their win against Arizona State. Even in defeat, though, Dentmon managed 23 points. 'êJustin Dentmon is playing like a senior should,'ê Romar said before the Huskies headed back to Seattle.