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Originally published Monday, November 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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UW Men's Basketball | Huskies relax, Eagles get close

The real wake-up call comes this morning. "Man, we got to get up early," said Washington guard Justin Dentmon, lamenting a 4:50 a.m. alarm for a 6:30...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The real wake-up call comes this morning.

"Man, we got to get up early," said Washington guard Justin Dentmon, lamenting a 4:50 a.m. alarm for a 6:30 a.m. practice on a day that will end with the Huskies traveling to New York for the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals later this week.

But for a few brief moments Sunday, the wake-up call seemed to be coming even earlier as Eastern Washington chipped away at a 24-point UW lead, cutting it to nine before Washington held on for an 82-68 victory at Edmundson Pavilion.

Once again, the Huskies were led by forward Jon Brockman, who hit 13 of 19 shots and scored 26 points, four days after scoring a career-high 31 in a win over Utah in the NIT regional final.

Brockman admitted that the NIT might have been already on the minds of a few of the Huskies, who improved to 3-0.

"I think there is a lot of excitement amongst our team looking forward to going to New York, looking forward to playing in the NIT," said Brockman. "That makes it difficult to play in a game like this when you're already thinking about something that's coming up. But it's not an excuse at all. Basketball is basketball; you should be ready to play whenever."

Eastern is now 1-3, having earlier been blown out at Washington State and New Mexico, and that might have also been a factor in the lackluster second half.

"I think we took them a little lightly," said Dentmon, who scored 16 points and had seven assists and drew one of the loudest roars of the day by diving on the floor for a loose ball in the second half. "We knew we were going to win, but we shouldn't play like that. We should play like this is a chance to get to the NCAA tournament."

The setting also might not have helped. With it being a Sunday afternoon and the Seahawks playing a home game a few miles away, even the smaller-than-usual announced crowd of 7,822 seemed to be overestimated, and often, the only electricity in the building was in the lights and scoreboard.

UW, however, overcame some sloppy play early to take a 45-27 halftime lead with Brockman hitting 7 of 8 shots en route to 14 points, and the expected rout seemed on.

The lead grew to 24 with 10:19 left and was still at 22 with six minutes remaining when the Eagles, behind junior-college transfer guard Adris DeLeon (22 points) and sophomore guard Gary Gibson (13 points), scored 12 in a row and eventually cut the lead to 73-64 with 2:08 remaining, forcing UW coach Lorenzo Romar to reinsert his starters.

"We lost a little concentration in the second half," Romar said. The Huskies had 11 of their 19 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

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Brockman, who had been on the bench through most of Eastern's comeback, quickly quelled the uprising with a drive through the lane for a basket as the shot clock ran out, which followed a jumper from the corner on the previous possession, each part of an enlarged offensive array for the junior forward.

"It feels comfortable," Brockman said of his rapidly improving outside shot. "It feels good. Especially when our guards do such a good job of drawing my guy, and I'm just kind of standing out there alone. That helps a lot. It's a work in progress."

Romar said Brockman lost about 5 pounds in the offseason without losing any strength and is "sleeker" now.

"He's just so much more efficient," Romar said. "He's moving a lot better. He runs the floor, he posts up so strong. He's just playing very, very good basketball."

Not that Brockman wanted to hear plaudits afterward.

"It's hard for me to get my mind off that second half," he said. "There are no excuses for that."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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