Free throw shooting dooms Dawgs

Jon Brockman (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

SEATTLE - In a fitting end to the 2007-08 basketball season, hobbled UW forward Jon Brockman missed two free throws with four seconds remaining as the Huskies fell to the Valparaiso Crusaders, 72-71 in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at Bank of America Arena.

"I wasn't thinking about much when I got to the line," said Brockmam about the final two missed free throws. "But I'll be thinking about it a lot more all off-season. It's been a crutch all season and cost us a lot of games."

Washington, who own the dubious distinction of being the worst free throw shooting team in all of college basketball hit just 11 of 24 from the charity stripe, including an abysmal 3-12 in the second half. With the loss, the Huskies fell to 16-17 on the season, the first sub-.500 season since Lorenzo Romar's first season as head coach.

The Huskies kept the game close despite being outmanned underneath the hoop. UW post Artem Wallace was felled by an ACL injury in the opening minutes of the game, forcing coach Romar to turn to Brockman, who had not played since March 8th. The junior from Snohomish severely twisted his ankle near the end of the Huskies 76-73 loss to Washington State at the end of UW's regular conference season.

But Brockman didn't let his injury stifle his play, scoring 14 points in the opening half against the Crusaders. Washington closed the half with a three point lead.

"Jon did far better than I would have imagined tonight," said Romar about Brockman. "Having sat out practice (since the injury two weeks ago) he participated in the shoot-around, and I though he did a remarkable jog in spite of a gimpy ankle."

"We prepared for him to play the whole game," Valparaiso Assistant Coach Luke Gore said. "Obviously we didn't prepare too well because he still had a great game. We had many different ways to defend him, and finally at the end it worked a little bit. He's a heck of a player, so strong and physical. He's a hard matchup no matter what you do."

Valparaiso didn't back down, pulling ahead moments into the second half behind the stellar post play of their forwards - Bryan Bouchie and Urule Igbavboa - as well as sharpshooter Brandon McPherson. Bouchie led the Crusaders with 20 points - three under his career high - and McPherson had 18, including 3-4 from 3-point range.

The Huskies countered with a balanced team effort and Brockman, who paced the Dawgs with 22 points despite his injury woes. Justin Dentmon added 11 and Quincy Pondexter 10 for the Huskies.

But in a story repeated in nearly every loss this season, it was their dismal free throw shooting that proved to be their undoing. "Down the stretch, we certainly had our chances, but we didn't capitalize," said Romar.

"We were such and up and down team. When we did finally get it together, we didn't win enough to show that we did," he added, summing up the season. "The team made very, very good progress from where we were at the start of the year, but the bottom line is that we couldn't quite make the plays we needed to make to win the games. If we were a decent foul-shooting team, I firmly believe we'd be in the NCAA tournament. When you look at 16-17, it depends on your glass. Half-empty; disaster. Half-full; we did a lot of things good down the stretch. If we can carry over in to next season, with additional players coming in that shoot free throws well, we can take the next step and get back to where we need to be."

"We just need to get in the gym this offseason and work on the things that messed up our season," added junior guard Joel Smith. "We definitely were a horrible free-throw shooting team this year, and that's one of the keys that we need to focus on this summer as a whole. We pretty much bring it every other time, we just need to bring it together at once."
Notes:
Romar on Wallace: "Artem has an ACL issue, but until the MRI is done, we won't k now exactly how serious it is."
Statistics:
Points: Brockman 22, Dentmon 11, Pondexter 10, Smith 9, Morris 7, Appleby 5, Overton 4, Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 1
Minutes: Pondexter 28, Appleby 28, Dentmon 26, Brockman 26, Overton 24, Morris 24, Smith 20, Bryan-Amaning 12, Wolfinger 6, Holiday 5
Rebounds: Brockman 12, Pondexter 6, Dentmon 5, TEAM 4, Smith 3, Bryan-Amaning 3, Appleby 1, Holiday 1, Wolfinger 1
Assists: Pondexter 4, Overton 4, Smith 3, Brockman 2, Appleby 1, Dentmon 1
Steals: Dentmon 3, Bryan-Amaning 2, Brockman 2, Pondexter 1, Overton 1, Morris 1, Smith 1
Blocks: Smith 2, Bryan-Amaning 1

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