After losing badly to USC, the Huskies' pride was on the line, and they knew it. And they responded with their grittiest win of the year, one that saw just about everything - including a 37-2 discrepancy in bench scoring, a free throw attempt that never should have happened, a ball thrown off a face to save an in-bounds play and Bob 'The Beast' Sapp as Yell King.
"We have been talking to our team about toughness and believing we can win," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said afterwards. "I think we lost both of those for a while. And while this is only one game, but I thought against one of the nation's best team's, we showed as much grit as a team could show. And trust me, that's the only way we were going to win that game."
Despite going 16-30 from the free-throw line, Washington (13-11, 4-7) was able to hang on and make the plays they needed to in the clutch to seal the victory, their 12th against the last 17 ranked opponents they've played at Bank of America Arena, and the fourth-straight at home against the Bruins. Dentmon scored a team-high 20 points, the most he's scored in a Pac-10 game this year by 10 points. His highest output to date had been the 10 points he scored against USC Thursday.
"I've been letting my teammates down by not being aggressive," Dentmon said. "I've been out of it. I wanted to show them that I could pick it up. I tried my best today."
"I have to give a lot of credit to the University of Washington for doing a great job today," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said after the game. "They did a great job pressuring us and forced 11 first half turnovers. They were more physical today."
Pondexter made his own offensive moves, coming up with key plays down the stretch to help extend Washington's lead. The offensive resurgence of both Dentmon and Pondexter comes at a key time in Washington's schedule. At 4-7 in conference, their margin for error is wafer-thin when it comes to getting a coveted seat at the Big Dance. And the comments after the game showed that the Washington players aren't going to take too long to enjoy the hard-fought win.
"It's great to enjoy this win, but at the same time we should all feel horrible, sick and stupid for the way we played the last four games," Washington's Jon Brockman said.
Romar was pleased with how his team played for pride. "If we didn't bounce back (from Thursday's game), it would have showed that we have no pride," he said. "But we did bounce back. We played the way Husky Basketball should be played. Our guys collectively responded to the challenge."
UCLA (21-3, 9-2) went on a five point run - highlighted by a Darren Collison 3-pointer - to bring the lead down to four with 1:41 left in the game, their closest deficit during the last 9:30 of the game. But Dentmon and Appleby - the Huskies' two-leading free-throw shooters - were able to hold onto the ball, forcing the Bruins to foul them. They scored four the final six UW points from the line, as UCLA missed their 3-point tries, and Brockman was able to score a reverse layin to keep the margin out of reach - all while the Bank of America crowd was as raucous as it has been all season long.
Brockman's play Sunday was exceptionally steady. The junior from Snohomish pounded the glass for 17 rebounds to go with his 12 points, making it the eighth double-double for him in conference play. Nine of his 17 rebounds were on the offensive end. The Huskies out-rebounded UCLA 44-36. And senior Ryan Appleby made four-second half free throws - part of his 12-point contribution - at a time when the Huskies were really struggling to make it pay at the line. UW shot 16-30 overall from the stripe (.533), even below their normal percentage (.588).
But above all else, it was Washington's team defensive effort that held UCLA to 14 points below their season average, and the Huskies were able to score 13 points more than the Bruins are used to giving up per game. They beat by ten a team that normally wins games by an average of 17.5 points per game. They did it by holding UCLA to 34 percent shooting for the game (21-61), including 1-16 from 3-point range.
"Nothing in the box score talks about how many times Artem Wallace and Jon Brockman tipped the ball out," Romar said. "The effort and work he did in defending Kevin Love...nothing in the score sheet will talk about Justin Holiday's nine minutes and how he came in and did a great job defensively. Quincy Pondexter dove for a ball like Jon Brockman does.
"Those are signature plays that need to happen every game, and our guys did that today. That's always fun to watch."
"I thought they did an outstanding job with their rotation and a good job of wearing us down," Howland added. "They did a good job pressuring the ball."
Romar was expecting a much-higher level of intensity than what he saw on Thursday - a 73-59 loss to USC - and when Venoy Overton jogged back on defense during the first minute of the game, Romar substituted him out. Minutes later, Joel Smith cruised back to secure a loose ball and when the ball wound up getting stolen by UCLA, Smith was essentially benched for the rest of the game. That move sent a clear message to the team - play 110 percent for as long as you are out on the floor.
It was a small gesture, but it did the trick. Overton came back into the game and gave the Huskies a lot of energy and scrappiness. During one situation early in the second half, Overton got tangled up with Shipp while UCLA guard Russell Westbrook went in for a dunk. Neither Overton nor Shipp would back down from one another, and when Collison got involved he was immediately whistled for a technical foul by lead official Dick Cartmell.
And in the second half with the five-second clock winding down, Washington's Tim Morris threw the ball off of the face of UCLA's Alfred Aboya, giving the Huskies the ball back. "The official said there was nothing he could do," Howland said.
Despite getting his customary double-double, Washington was able to hold freshman sensation Kevin Love five points under his season average. UW's Artem Wallace - who finished the game with four points and nine rebounds - was able to effectively front Love from the post for most of the game. Love's first made basket didn't come until 3:16 left in the first half, and the Huskies were up six - 31-25.
"Love is a great player, and our focus was to be physical with him and front him," Wallace said. "We wanted to limit his touches, because once he gets the ball he's pretty good."
Josh Shipp led the Bruins with 19 points, while Russell Westbrook added 18 for UCLA.
Both teams kept things pretty even for the first 10 minutes of the game, and then the Huskies slowly carved out a lead. From the 10:05 mark of the first half, Washington scored seven unanswered points in a two-minute stretch, punctuated by a Brockman layin. The lead swelled to eight on a Wallace jumper with just under four minutes left in the half, and they finished the half up seven, 35-28
Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar has now won 116 games at UW, tying him with Bob Bender (1994-2002) for the No. 4 spot on the Husky coaching wins list.
Ryan Appleby needs 13 3-pointers to pass Deon Luton (212) as Washington's all-time 3-point scorer.
Points: Dentmon 20, Brockman 12, Appleby 12, Pondexter 11, Bryan-Amaning 6, Wallace 4, Morris 4, Overton 2
Minutes: Brockman 29, Appleby 29, Wallace 28, Dentmon 26, Morris 22, Pondexter 21, Bryan-Amaning 18, Overton 14, Holiday 9, Smith 4
Rebounds: Brockman 17, Wallace 9, Morris 4, TEAM 4, Overton 3, Holiday 3, Appleby 1, Dentmon 1, Bryan-Amaning 1, Pondexter 1
Assists: Appleby 3, Brockman 2, Overton 2, Pondexter 2, Smith 1, Dentmon 1, Holiday 1
Steals: Appleby 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Overton 1, Morris 1, Dentmon 1, Pondexter 1
Blocks: Wallace 1, Appleby 1, Bryan-Amaning 1, Holiday 1, Pondexter 1