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February 5, 2009

Washington at California Preview

Washington's Justin Dentmon matched what was then his career-high point total in the team's first meeting with California last month, only to have the Huskies fall in a triple-overtime thriller.

Based on his play since that game, the senior guard has plenty left in the tank for the Pac-10 rivals' rematch.

Dentmon looks to continue his hot streak as the 22nd-ranked Huskies try to improve to 8-2 in conference with a road game against the struggling Golden Bears on Thursday night.

Dentmon scored 15 of his 24 points in the second and third overtimes against California on Jan. 10, but Washington was outscored 9-2 in the final two minutes of the 88-85 defeat.

While that loss was tough to swallow, Dentmon and the Huskies (16-5, 7-2) appear to have learned a lot from it.

Dentmon, who averaged 9.8 points and shot a career-best 42.6 percent from the field last season, is averaging 21.4 points and shooting 50.6 percent over his last seven games, a stretch that began with his performance against Cal (16-6, 5-4).

The senior, a reserve for most of last season, is leading the Pac-10 in scoring in conference play with 19.6 points per game.

"It feels like every shot I shoot is going in," Dentmon said after recording a career-high 30 points to lead the Huskies to an 84-71 win over then-No. 14 Arizona State on Saturday. "My confidence is high."

Dentmon's surge has helped the Huskies match last season's conference victory total just halfway through Pac-10 play.

"There's no way we would be 7-2 in the conference without what Justin Dentmon has been doing for us," coach Lorenzo Romar said.

Dentmon's teammates have been just as complimentary of the 5-foot-11 guard, who has joined freshman guard Isaiah Thomas and senior forward Jon Brockman as Washington players averaging at least 15.0 points on the season.

"Being able to have that balanced attack and having multiple guys on our roster who can put up big numbers makes us a really tough team to deal with," said Brockman, one of three players in the Pac-10 averaging a double-double with 15.6 points and 10.9 rebounds.

The Huskies have been just as dangerous outside Seattle as they have been at home. They're 4-1 on the road midway through conference play for the first time since 1976.

That doesn't bode well for the Golden Bears, losers of four of five since their road win over the Huskies.

Cal leads Division I in 3-point shooting at 45.8 percent, but missed 14 of 16 3s in a 73-62 loss to Southern California on Saturday night. The Golden Bears had three starters score at least 12 points, but got only eight points and 3-for-11 shooting from their reserves.

"We're struggling," coach Mike Montgomery said Tuesday when asked about his team's depth. "We need some help. I know Saturday I didn't know where to go. I didn't feel that I had anybody who could come in and really help. Part of it was the way USC was playing us, but we need some guys to step up. We're going the opposite way right now."

Montgomery knows it could be tough to change direction against the Huskies, who won 87-84 in Berkeley last season.

"They're good. ... They've got good depth. They're very athletic and very physical," Montgomery said. "Us having beaten them there gets their attention."

Cal guard Patrick Christopher has been held to 9.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game since recording career highs of 27 points and 11 boards in the first meeting with the Huskies.




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