Washington Beat Utah, 83-77

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SEATTLE -- Jon Brockman said he wanted this one badly, so his mother could use the plane tickets to New York that she had already purchased.

He must really love his mom.

The relentless junior was an unstoppable inside Wednesday night, setting career highs with 31 points and 18 rebounds facing a center five inches taller than him to lead Washington to an 83-77 victory over Utah Wednesday night in the second round of the NIT Season Tipoff.

So, yes, Becky Brockman is going to the Big Apple and fabled Madison Square Garden with the rest of the Huskies (2-0). They went 19-13 and missed both the NCAA tournament and the NIT last season but advanced to this tournament's semifinals Nov. 21 against Texas A&M.

The 15th-ranked Aggies beat UTEP 81-76 in College Station, Texas, Wednesday.

"That was for mom. ... It was something we kind of put on our calendars," Brockman said, smiling as wide as his game was large against Utah's 7-foot-1 Luke Nevill.

For coach Lorenzo Romar, the win provides needed exposure for his team that plays most of its games after the East Coast has gone to bed.

"I think it's very important that we get to play on the national stage, to play in one of the most -- if not the most -- prestigious events centers in the country," Romar said.

Even on their own coast, the Huskies have been forgotten this preseason, after last spring's disappointing finish that left Washington out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. But they made a small step back toward recognition Wednesday.

Justin Dentmon scored 16 points, including a leaning, scooping shot in the lane that gave the Huskies the lead with 1:29 left and then two free throws that put the Huskies up 78-75 with 50.3 seconds left.

Lawrence Borha missed an open 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 36 seconds remaining for Utah (2-1), before Quincy Pondexter hit two clinching free throws with 31.8 seconds left.

Johnnie Bryant scored 18 points -- 14 in the second half -- before fouling out immediately after Borha's last miss for the Utes. Stephen Weigh led Utah with 21 points.

But the night was Brockman's.

"I just don't know how much more he could have done," Romar said.

The all-Pac-10 player last season, who is taking over from now-NBA center Spencer Hawes as Washington's star, engaged in a throwback grudge match with Nevill. All night they traded arm bars across the shoulders, shoves in the back and banged into each other's guts to gain positions.

"He ended up sinking back. Then I just took my shots and toyed with him a little bit," said Brockman, who could have scored 40 had he shot better than 11-for-23 from the floor.

"We were going at each other."

Brockman said he knew he could spin around and shoot over the Australian with turnaround jumpers and right-handed hooks. He released them so quickly that Nevill often remained on his heels and then helplessly watched the ball drop through the net.

"He's a little smaller than guys I'm used to guarding, but he's quick and agile and he has the weight," Nevill said of the bullish, 255-pound Brockman.

"He kind of just jumped into me and threw the ball up."

Nevill fouled out with 4:39 left when Dentmon took an exaggerated fall while trying to box him out. The play came on a turnover fastbreak on which Luka Drca scored to put Utah up 70-69.

Washington outscored the Utes 14-7 the rest of the way.

"I just went at his legs. I guess he didn't like it," Dentmon said.

He didn't.

"I don't feel I hit him that hard at all," Nevill said.

After Drca's score, Brockman twice followed his own misses with rebounds before getting fouled and converting two free throws. That set up Dentmon's scooping, go-ahead basket.

Washington led 51-41 after Brockman beat Nevill to the low blocks and converted the subsequent 3-point play with 16:33 left. But Utah went on a 10-0 run to tie it on a free throw by Borha.

Nevill started 4-for-4 from the field but did not score a basket over 14½ minutes, from late in the first half until he got behind Brockman for a layup with 11:44 left to keep the Utes within 56-55, after they had trailed by 11.

"I wanted to get more shots than I did," Nevill lamented.

He showed some frustration on his fourth foul with 8:11 to go. He threw Brockman to the floor as Borha was making a 3-pointer to put Utah up 61-60.

"We are going to learn from this," said Jim Boylen, who coached his third game since replacing Ray Giacoletti following the Utes' 11-19 season last spring.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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