WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are moments when Washington point guard Justin Dentmon is still a freshman.
During a news conference Thursday as a prelude to tonight's Sweet 16 game against Connecticut, Dentmon was asked how he'll handle defending UConn guard Marcus Williams.
Dentmon hemmed and hawed a bit, saying, "I can't say right now." Senior Brandon Roy, sensing that wasn't really a good answer, leaned over, said something about "transition" and Dentmon then continued the answer, saying he'll just try to "slow him down in transition."
In just about every other way, however, Dentmon has acted well past his years in Washington's march to the Sweet 16.
In the two tournament games, he is Washington's third-leading scorer at 12 points per game (up from 8.4 for the season) and has nary a turnover in 62 minutes.
It makes the faux pas that cost UW the Stanford game, or his struggles with turnovers early in the Pac-10 season, seem long ago.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, however, professes no surprise at the transformation.
"To be candid, when he went through his turnover slump in mid-year, that was a surprise because what we noticed in high school was that he never turned the ball over," Romar said. "He's playing more now like we thought he would."
Dentmon is also scoring more now, like he always wanted to. Dentmon says one reason for the turnover plague in January was that he was still learning how to be the kind of point guard Romar wanted him to be.
"It's a way different feeling. I'm more of a threat now," Dentmon said. "Before, I was out there dribbling the ball and trying to see the open people and forced to give them the ball. Now, if I don't see people open, Coach says I can take it to the rack or hit the outside jumper. That really cuts down on my turnovers."
Romar said he has gradually given Dentmon more freedom, which he considers part of the normal learning curve for a freshman point guard.
"Before Justin could be freed to score ... he had to learn how to run a team better," Romar said. "If he just scores, and now teams take his scoring away and he doesn't know how to run a team, we are up a creek. Now that he's done a better job of that and understanding what we are doing better, he's freed up."
Huskies invade West Wing
One reason Romar wanted to bring the team out early — the Huskies left Tuesday afternoon — was so the players could experience some of the culture of Washington, D.C. The Huskies did that Wednesday, with a tour of the White House among several activities.
"I was hoping I'd get to see the President walking down one of the hallways and say hi," Roy said. But the Huskies didn't get to the West Wing until about 9 p.m. and were told the President had already gone to bed.
Said Bobby Jones: "It was nice, but I've been telling everybody if we win four more games, we can make another appointment to see him and take pictures this time because we'll have the national championship."
Washington forward Jon Brockman showed up for the practice session at the Verizon Center with a huge scratch down one arm. Later, talking with reporters, he had his elbow in ice. The latter injury happened in practice Monday, he said; the former was courtesy of teammate Hans Gasser's fingernails during practice Wednesday.
Romar joked that the scratch looked like "Frankenstein's scar."
Brockman said neither of the injuries is a big deal. More important might be healing his admittedly tender psyche after he went scoreless in UW's first two tournament games.
"He's a competitor, and he doesn't want to let his teammates down or anyone down," said Romar, who said he has talked with Brockman. "He's got a lot of pride. And I guarantee you — he can't wait to play this game."
• Romar was diplomatic about the comments earlier this week by Arizona coach Lute Olson concerning UW's nonconference schedule. "Coach Olson is fine with me," Romar said. "I think coach Olson is pulling for us [in the tournament], and I think he respects our program."
• Asked about the fact that his team has sometimes looked unfocused, UConn's Williams said, "Every team has lapses. But ours are more noticeable because our team is so talented."