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Originally published Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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UW Men's Basketball | Huskies get back on track, defeat ASU

James Harden stood defiantly afterward, displaying a far more impenetrable front than his team did during the game. The Pac-10's leading scorer...

Seattle Times staff reporter


TEMPE, Ariz. — James Harden stood defiantly afterward, displaying a far more impenetrable front than his team did during the game.

The Pac-10's leading scorer insisted that Washington's defensive effort against him in No. 23 Washington's 84-71 men's basketball victory here Saturday wasn't all that special.

Instead, the guard who averages 22 points said he took only two shots in the first half because he was trying to get his teammates involved.

"That's my game," Harden said coolly. "That's how I've been playing the last five or six games."

Maybe so, but this time it played right into Washington's hands.

By containing Harden early — he didn't score until 3:22 remained in the first half and had just five points at halftime — the Huskies were able to grab an early lead.

And by getting a career-high 30 points from Justin Dentmon and 25 from backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas, they were able to hold on for the critical win. The victory gave Washington a crucial split of its trip to the desert after losing Thursday at Arizona.

The Huskies ended the first half of their Pac-10 schedule tied for the conference lead with UCLA, each at 7-2.

"That was a great gut-check win for our guys," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, whose team has won six in a row at Arizona State, is 4-1 on the road in Pac-10 games and 16-5 overall (equaling last year's win total).

There was also some heady coaching by Romar and his staff. They began the game with a twist, deploying 6-foot-8 forward Darnell Gant to guard the Harden, who is 6-5 and 218 pounds.

"We wanted to put someone with size on him because he is so strong and powerful," Romar said.

Gant, who sat out as a redshirt a year ago, and Harden are each from Los Angeles and have played against and with each other since the sixth grade. That made Gant more eager to guard Harden. Coaches gave him his assignment Friday at noon.

"I've been wanting this since last year," Gant said. "I've been focused on this since 12 o'clock."

Gant played only 16 minutes but guarded Harden the first five minutes or so of each half, holding him without a point. That laid the groundwork for UW's success against ASU's explosive guard. Sophomore swingman Justin Holiday took over for Gant midway through each half, and the Huskies often used big men such as Jon Brockman to trap Harden when he got the ball.

"We just wanted to make him pass the ball off and then play regular defense on everybody else and we'll be fine," Holiday said.

It worked perfectly. Harden finished with 15 points, but 10 came after UW built a 52-33 lead early in the second half. Harden's teammates couldn't keep up with Washington's backcourt onslaught.

Dentmon was the offensive key, scoring 18 points in the first half as he hit 4 of 6 three-pointers in a span of 6:03. Washington led 41-29 at halftime.

What was Dentmon thinking during his first-half surge?

"Shoot, you are open," Dentmon said. "Just shoot it, since I have the hot hand."

Dentmon never really cooled. He had 12 points in the second half to become the first Husky to score 30 since Brockman had that many in the season opener at Portland.

Thomas and Dentmon each hit 10 free throws, many coming late to seal the win. Arizona State cut the deficit to six with 1:58 left but got no closer.

The Sun Devils (16-5, 5-4 Pac-10) entered the week ranked No. 14 but losses to Washington State and Washington could knock them from the top 25.

Arizona State coach Herb Sendek thought Dentmon and Thomas were the keys for the Huskies. "I thought they really controlled the game," he said. "We didn't have an answer for them."

But Romar couldn't stop talking about the defense of Gant and Holiday on Harden. It's the versatility the Huskies lacked the last two seasons, he said, the difference between those two mediocre teams and one that seems headed for the NCAA tournament.

"Those two guys, it's what makes you proud of a team," Romar said. "Justin and Isaiah combine for 55 points. But if those two guys don't contribute behind the scenes, we don't win the game."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

WASHINGTON 84
min fgm-a ftm-a or-t a pf pts
Pondexter 22 4-5 0-0 0-2 0 5 8
Brockman 23 3-6 4-4 2-9 2 4 10
Gant 16 0-1 0-0 1-4 0 3 0
Thomas 33 7-14 10-15 0-2 1 0 25
Dentmon 37 8-12 10-11 0-2 3 1 30
Overton 20 0-2 2-2 0-0 0 0 2
Bryan-Amning 16 2-7 0-0 0-2 0 2 4
Holiday 22 1-2 0-2 4-10 2 3 2
Turner 11 1-1 0-0 0-2 3 1 3
200 26-50 26-34 8-35 11 19 84
Percentages: FG .520, FT .765. Three-point goals: 6-12, .500 (Dentmon 4-7, Turner 1-1, Thomas 1-3, Overton 0-1). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 1 (Gant). Turnovers: 11 (Gant 2, Thomas 2, Holiday 2, Turner, Overton, Pondexter, Dentmon, Brockman). Steals: 5 (Brockman, Dentmon, Turner, Overton, Holiday). Technical fouls: None.
ARIZONA ST. 71
min fgm-a ftm-a or-t a pf pts
Pendergraph 39 10-13 1-3 9-15 1 2 21
Kuksiks 28 3-6 2-2 1-4 1 2 10
Abbott 25 1-7 2-4 0-3 2 4 5
Glasser 37 2-14 5-5 0-1 3 4 11
Harden 36 4-9 7-8 1-4 5 4 15
Boateng 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
McMillan 22 3-8 0-0 1-2 2 5 7
Shipp 12 1-2 0-0 0-3 1 4 2
200 24-59 17-22 12-32 15 25 71
Percentages: FG .407, FT .773. Three-point goals: 6-23, .261 (Kuksiks 2-3, Glasser 2-7, McMillan 1-3, Abbott 1-5, Shipp 0-1, Harden 0-4). Team rebounds: 0. Blocked shots: 1 (Pendergraph). Turnovers: 11 (Glasser 3, Kuksiks 3, Harden 2, McMillan, Shipp, Pendergraph). Steals: 7 (Glasser 3, Harden 3, McMillan). Technical fouls: Coach.
Washington 41 43 84
Arizona St. 29 42 71

Attendance: 9,367. Officials: Don McAllister, Randy Burkhart, Tom Wood.

Senior scoring punch
Justin Dentmon's 30 points Saturday were a career high. Seven of his 11 games of 20 or more points came this season:
Date Opponent Pts
Jan. 31, 2009 Arizona St. 30
Jan. 10, 2009 California 24
Jan. 25, 2007 Oregon 24
Jan. 29, 2009 Arizona 23
Nov. 24 2006 Eastern Wash. 23
Jan. 22, 2009 USC 22
Jan. 15, 2009 Oregon 22
Nov. 26, 2007 Long Beach St. 22
Nov. 20, 2008 Florida Int'l 21
Dec. 14, 2008 Portland State 20
Feb. 10, 2008 UCLA 20
Source: UW sports information

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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