Thursday , Dec , 28 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Huskies and Trojans open up conference play

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Pac-10 play gets underway in Los Angeles
this week, as the 14th-ranked Washington Huskies take on the USC Trojans
from the Galen Center this evening.

Lorenzo Romar’s squad has had to fill in some missing pieces from last
year’s stellar club, but the early indications are the team is still a
viable Pac-10 contender, as Washington has won 10 of its first 11 games this
season. All 10 wins have come in Seattle, with the sole loss being a 97-87
setback at Gonzaga on December 9th. Since then, the team has reeled off three
consecutive victories, including an 80-51 rout of Weber State on December

The Trojans don’t bring a top-25 ranking into this game, but could
certainly find themselves in the national polls if they continue their strong
start. The team is 10-3 on the young season and enters this game having won
five of its last six games. USC is coming off one of its best wins of the
year, besting top-25 foe Wichita State (60-56) in the final round of the Las
Vegas Classic on December 23rd.

The Huskies have won five straight in this series to tie things up at 62-62.

The Huskies shot just .412 from the floor in the first half against Weber
State, but caught fire in the second half, turning an eight-point lead into a
29-point romp. Freshman center Spencer Hawes had his way with the Wildcats,
posting a near double-double with 23 points and nine rebounds. He was joined
down low by sophomore forward Jon Brockman, who did complete the feat,
tallying 18 points and 12 boards. In all, the Huskies held a huge 47-24
advantage on the boards and forced a whopping 21 turnovers to run away with
the game. This is still one of the better offensive teams in not only the
Pac-10, but the nation for that matter, as Washington is currently averaging
88.0 ppg, on a healthy .488 shooting. Four of the team’s five starters are
averaging double figures, led by Hawes. The seven-footer is really starting to
heat up and is currently averaging 15.5 ppg, on a sizzling .621 shooting. He
is followed closely in the scoring column by Quincy Pondexter, who adds 15.0
ppg. Brockman has been a monster down low with a double-double average of 12.8
points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while Justin Dentmon handles the point and
is both a scorer (11.9 ppg) and distributor (5.0 apg).

The Trojans have little chance of hanging with Washington in an offensive
shootout, but then again, that isn’t Tim Floyd’s gameplan. This is a
defensive-minded team by nature and it has certainly paid off thus far. USC is
averaging just 70.6 ppg in 2006-07, but has been superb in limiting foes to a
mere 58.4 ppg. In addition, opponents have been held way under 40 percent
shooting on the season (.334) and under 30 percent from behind the arc (.261).
Offensively, three players lead the charge, with Nick Young topping the list
at 16.2 ppg. Lodrick Stewart is next in line at 14.3 ppg, while freshman Taj
Gibson has given the team a presence in the paint with 12.3 points and a team-
high 9.4 rebounds per outing. The team recently got Gabe Pruitt back on the
floor. Pruitt sat out the first semester due to academic problems, but has
played in the last two games. Pruitt averaged nearly 17 points per game last
season and although he has yet to convert from the floor (0-of-6), he should
provide the team with another much-needed offensive threat as conference play
gets underway. In the win over Wichita State last weekend, Young led the way
with 26 points, on 12-of-15 shooting. Gibson added 12 points, as did fellow
freshman Daniel Hackett.