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February 21, 2009

Washington at Southern Cal Preview

Jon Brockman struggled offensively in Washington's win over Southern California last month. Trojans leading scorer Dwight Lewis didn't even get a chance to play.

Brockman and the 22nd-ranked Huskies look to hold on to their slim lead in the Pac-10 on Saturday night as they visit a Trojans team that has had its NCAA tournament hopes dampened, even with Lewis healthy.

Washington (19-7, 10-4) would likely fall out of first place in the Pac-10 if it loses this game. The Huskies have a half-game lead on No. 14 Arizona State, No. 20 UCLA and California, who all play Saturday.

Washington had a three-game winning streak end and let UCLA back into the league race with an 85-76 loss to the Bruins on Thursday night.

Now the Huskies will be trying to avoid a third straight road loss to the Trojans (16-9, 7-6). Washington had dropped three of four overall to USC before a 78-73 win Jan. 22.

The Huskies won despite a rare off night by Brockman, who scored a season-low four points and finished without a field goal for the first time since a win over Illinois on March 18, 2006, a second-round NCAA tournament matchup in his freshman season.

The rugged forward went 0-for-8 from the floor versus USC but did pull down 13 rebounds, helping Washington take advantage of Lewis' absence.

The junior guard missed the game due to an ankle injury. Freshman Leonard Washington started for Lewis and scored two points on 1-for-8 shooting before fouling out.

Lewis returned from a two-game absence Jan. 29, scoring nine points against Stanford. The Trojans won two straight after Lewis came back but lost three in a row before beating Washington State 61-51 on Thursday night.

"I'll probably start getting revved up for Saturday's game tomorrow," Lewis said after scoring 17 points versus the Cougars.

USC will likely rely heavily again on Lewis, who is averaging 15.6 points and shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range. This is a crucial game for the Trojans, who desperately need a boost to have a crack at getting into the NCAA tournament.

Lewis and backcourt mate Daniel Hackett are 6-foot-5, giving them a big height advantage over Washington's impressive guards. Freshman Isaiah Thomas tops the Huskies with 16.3 points per game but is 5-8, three inches shorter than Justin Dentmon, Washington's other starting guard.

Thomas and Dentmon were outstanding in this season's first matchup with USC, combining for 39 points.

Against UCLA, Dentmon scored 22 points and Brockman had 16 points and 14 rebounds for his 55th career double-double, most among college basketball's active players.

Brockman had a tough time matching up with Trojans forward Taj Gibson, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds in January's meeting.

Gibson is averaging 14.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

USC leads the series 65-64.

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