• Arizona at UW, noon, FSN
Who is the Washington Huskies’ leading scorer? If you know the answer, you’re different from most of the players, who said they neither know nor care.
“I’d be willing to bet one or two of (my teammates) might know, but not many of them,” said senior Jon Brockman, who admitted he didn’t know when asked on Friday.
The answer, by the way, is senior guard Justin Dentmon, whose 16-point performance Thursday against Arizona State moved his season average to 15.8 – a tenth of a point ahead of previous leader Isaiah Thomas of Tacoma.
“I didn’t know that,” Brockman said. “Which I think is a testament of that’s not what matters to this team. I know even Justin could care less who’s leading the team in scoring.”
Brockman was right about that. When Dentmon was asked, he didn’t know either. When told it was him, a slight smile trickled across his face, but he said that’s not one of his goals.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “But I’m really thinking about the championship – one more step closer to that.”
The Huskies can earn at least a share of their first regular season Pacific-10 Conference title since 1984-85 with a win today over Arizona. And their scoring versatility is one of the main weapons worrying Wildcats interim coach Russ Pennell.
“I don’t know that you can focus on one player when you play Washington,” Pennell said this week. “They are very balanced. ... You’d like to keep Brockman off the glass, that’s where he can really kill you. But you still have to contain Isaiah Thomas’ penetration, Justin Dentmon’s shooting, (and forward Quincy) Pondexter. The list goes on. I love their team. I love their lineup. I think when you start focusing on one guy, somebody else on their team is talented enough to beat you.”
Brockman was UW’s leading scorer through the first 16 games this season. Then he was passed by Thomas on Jan. 15 - although neither knew it until informed by the media. Now, 12 games later, Dentmon has nudged past Thomas.
And the order certainly could change again, as Dentmon (15.8 ppg), Thomas (15.7), and Brockman (14.9 ppg) are all clustered within a point of each other. And Pondexter’s recent surge has raised his average to 11.5.
“We’ve always talked about having five guys in double figures,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We have four. But I think at our program, with our philosophy, if we can have four or five guys in double figures we’re at our best.
“Rarely do we have anyone averaging 20-21 points a game. It’s about the way it is now: 16, 15, 14. We try to share the basketball and it makes you, in my opinion, a tougher team to defend.”
Washington’s problem today is that Arizona’s offense poses a similar challenge. The Wildcats are led by power forward Jordan Hill (17.9 ppg), wing Chase Budinger (17.5) and point guard Nic Wise (14.9). But while Wise is third on the list, he was the one who doomed UW by erupting for 29 points in the Wildcats’ 106-97 win Jan. 29 in Tucson, Ariz.
“They’re a difficult, difficult team for us to defend,” Romar said. “... They’ve got a great low-post presence that can score – he can get 30 himself, Jordan Hill. Nic Wise can get 30. And then you’ve got a wing player who can get 30. ... And not only can Nic Wise score, he can constantly break down your defense and just get easy shots (for his teammates.)”
If Washington’s offensive versatility adds up to more than Arizona’s, the Huskies say their celebration will be muted. A win today would clinch a share of the Pac-10 title, but their real goal is their first outright conference title since 1952-53 and their first outright Pac-10 title ever. And that isn’t mathematically possible until next week.
“We have to be greedy,” Brockman said. “We’re not trying to share it; we’re trying to win it outright. We can celebrate a little bit (after the Arizona game) if things go well. But we have to stay focused and realize that our job’s not done.”
UW MEN’S GAMEDAY
ARIZONA (18-10, 8-7 PAC-10) AT NO. 21 WASHINGTON (21-7, 12-4)
Tipoff: Noon, Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
TV: FSN. Radio: 950-AM.
Series: Arizona leads, 42-23, including a 106-97 victory in the Jan. 29 meeting in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats also lead 16-14 in Seattle.
Statistical leaders: For Arizona, F Jordan Hill, 17.9 ppg and 11 rpg; F Chase Budinger, 3.4 apg. For UW, G Justin Dentmon, 15.8 ppg; F Jon Brockman, 11.3 rpg; G Isaiah Thomas, 2.6 apg.
Scouting report: UW would clinch at least a share of the Pac-10 regular season title with a win today. … Arizona is 3-3 against ranked opponents this season. Oddly, the school is 4-0 all-time against teams ranked No. 21. ... Washington leads the Pac-10 in scoring offense (79.2 ppg) and rebound margin (plus-8.9 rpg). Arizona is fifth in the conference in scoring offense (71.4), but the Wildcats scorched UW for a season-high 106 points in the previous meeting. Over the last five meetings in Seattle, the teams have combined to average 174.4 points per game – more than 87 points per team. ... Dentmon has moved into the UW scoring lead, one-tenth of a point ahead of Thomas.
Next: 8 p.m. Tuesday vs. Seattle University, Hec Edmundson Pavilion; FSN.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune