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March 6, 2009
A win over archrival Washington State is all that stands between Washington and its first outright Pac-10 title in more than 50 years.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the Cougars look like they're determined not to finish the season quietly.
The 16th-ranked Huskies look to clinch their first outright conference title since 1953 in Jon Brockman's final home game Saturday when they finish the regular season by hosting the Cougars, who have won three straight with two victories against ranked teams in that stretch.
Washington was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 in a preseason media poll, but the Huskies (23-7, 13-4) are currently alone in first place. They've already clinched at least a share of the conference championship for the first time since 1985, and the only team that can join them at the top is No. 20 UCLA.
If the Bruins stay alive by beating Oregon earlier Saturday, the Huskies can eliminate them from contention with a win over their instate rivals.
"Our last home game. Our chance to make history," senior guard Justin Dentmon said.
Brockman, the bruising inside force for Washington, leads the Pac-10 with 11.3 rebounds per game and his 16 double-doubles are second behind Arizona's Jordan Hill.
"He wears people down," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said. "I just think because he is not a big dunker and is not flashy and doesn't hit a lot of threes, people take him for granted."
However, Washington State (16-13, 8-9) would no doubt love to spoil Brockman's party, and the Cougars have looked more than capable of pulling off an upset lately.
Their three-game streak includes an 82-81 road win over then-No. 20 UCLA on Feb. 21 and a 51-49 overtime victory over then-14th-ranked Arizona State last Saturday.
Senior guard Taylor Rochestie made a long 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining to seal that win.
"When we believe in each other and do it the right way, we can win games," Rochestie said. "By any means necessary."
The Cougars came into this season with a seven-game winning streak against the Huskies, but Washington won 68-48 rout in Pullman on Jan. 3. The Huskies outscored the Cougars 38-20 in the second half.
Pondexter will play Saturday despite leaving Washington's last game after a hard fall to the court in the first half. Pondexter, averaging 11.5 points while starting all 30 games, said he was initially scared his season was over. But Romar said the forward will be fine after his sore back and ribs were evaluated Wednesday.
"I woke up a little rough this morning," Pondexter said. "Thank God we have a couple of days before we play. I'll be all right."
Despite Pondexter's injury, Washington cruised to an 87-60 win over Seattle on Tuesday night. The Huskies led 42-19 at halftime of the one-sided crosstown matchup.
"We really wanted to get out and play hard, push a big lead in this game so we can get our players who don't get a chance to give them some more reps out there, and give us a blow and get our legs rest up for the game on Saturday," said Dentmon, who had 11 points and four assists in 24 minutes.
Dentmon, who's third in the Pac-10 with 17.8 points per game in conference play, isn't worried about Washington suffering a letdown Saturday.
"We're going to be ready," he said. "Coach and them have a great way to prepare us for the game, so there is no doubt in my mind that we'll be ready."