Coach Lorenzo Romar’s first words to the media summed up this night: “Progress today.”
Romar was obviously happy with the effort after Friday’s lackluster 74-69 victory against Wright State. This was the game, the Huskies needed to have.
Said Romar: “Eleven assists on 22 baskets last night and 32 baskets with 17 assists for us, and 10 turnovers. We’re making progress. We made progress on the boards tonight, a number of people were attacking the glass. We had an effort to outrebound them.”
Before we get to the post-game breakdown, here’s some links:
— Here’s our game story.
— And the Associated Press offers this report.
Let’s start with the obvious.
Photo credit: The Associated Press – Joe Nicholson
Matthew Bryan-Amaning was outstanding. He tied his career-best with 23 points on 11 of 14 shooting and seven rebounds. Not sure why Belmont coach Rick Byrd chose to defend Bryan-Amaning with a single defender playing behind MBA, but he did. And the Huskies burned Byrd for it.
This is Byrd’s rationale: “The big kid [Amaning], he had an outstanding game. He made shots that we felt like we had to make him make–over us from eight feet, half hooks and that kind of stuff. But, you know, pick you poison. I mean, what are you going to do when all of a sudden (Isaiah) Thomas is a daggone three-point shooter when he’s shooting 30% for his career. And when he can do that, how the hay do you keep him from driving because he may be as hard to guard, driving the basketball, as I’ve ever seen. They’ve got great parts to their team. Pondexter is awfully good all over the floor, and when the big kid [Amaning] played like he did tonight, and then you’ve got Isaiah Thomas out there, then you’re an awfully good basketball team.”
So if you believe Byrd, Thomas is largely responsible for Bryan-Amaning’s big night. And Thomas wasn’t too shabby either. In fact, he was about as efficient as could be. How many times does anyone score 23 points taking just nine shots. He sank six, including 4 of 5 three-pointers. He also sank all seven free throws, collected seven rebounds, dished out three assists and had two steals. The only blemish was three turnovers.
Still, that’s one heck of a night for the little guy. I may have to toot this horn all season, but when Thomas is this efficient, there’ s no better player in the Pac-10. Not sure if I’m ready to put him among the elite in the country just yet, but a few more outings like this and we’ll see.
Photo credit: The Associated Press – Joe Nicholson
And then there’s Quincy Pondexter. Give the senior credit for recognizing the mismatch in the middle and exploiting it for a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds, which also led all players. Pondexter also took some abuse in the middle, went to the line 11 times and sank all 11 free throws. (More on the FTs later).
We talked a lot about establishing an identity last night and if Washington can forge this Big Three, then it will be hard to beat.
SOME MORE OBSERVATIONS:
— In the second half, UW went to the three-point guard lineup featuring Thomas, Venoy Overton and freshman Abdul Gaddy with Pondexter and Bryan-Amaning. Romar didn’t give the lineup any rave reviews in his post-game interview noting the group gave up several baskets in the opening minutes. Not sure if we’ll see more of it or not.
— The three guards were on the court at the same time because Darnell Gant struggled in the first half. He was 0 for 4 and had just one rebound in eight minutes. Not sure why Thomas can snag five rebounds in the half and Gant only has one. Consequently he sat on the bench and finished with 2 points in 12 minutes.
— Overton also struggled. He was 0 for 5, however, he also had zero turnovers and three assists. It’s okay if Overton isn’t scoring as long as he’s doing other things. And don’t read too much into the zero steals because Overton forces a lot of turnovers that he doesn’t get credit for.
— Whenever you mention Overton, you almost have to mention Gaddy, who played much more relaxed tonight. Perhaps the three-pointer early in the game helped him to calm down. Whatever the case, Gaddy didn’t look overwhelmed tonight.
— Freshman Clarence Trent made his college debut when the game was tied 34-34 in the first half and he helped UW to an 11-0 run that probably saved the game. Trent didn’t score a point, but he had four rebounds and was energetic on defense.
Said Romar: “The only reason Clarence didn’t play the first game is, number one, we have a lot of bodies. Two, Clarence is learning our system, and sometimes until you’re ready to go in there mentally, being in the right place and the right time, you’re not ready to go in there. But tonight, as we looked on the floor, we knew we weren’t rebounding well enough, we know Clarence is going to make something happen one way or another. He plays with energy, and he produces. So we decided to give him an opportunity to go in there and he did a good job.”
— Kudos to Washington for taking care of business at the free throw line. UW sank 25 of 29, which had me scrambling for my game notes to check for the last time the Huskies were as accurate from the charity stripe. Washington shot 94.4 percent (17 of 18) Feb. 24, 2007.
— The trio of Scott Suggs, Justin Holiday and Elston Turner didn’t give UW a lot of points, but they provided energy and allow the Huskies to outrun teams like Belmont. Suggs didn’t score like he did Friday, but he hauled in five rebounds and had a steal.
— The only sour note was Washington’s defense, which allowed the Bruins to shoot 50.9 percent from the field and 7 for 18 on three-pointers. Belmont like Wright State burned the over aggressive Huskies with a litany of back cuts for layups. Romar took the blame.
“There were big holes in our defense, and some of that was my fault,” he said. “On the ball screen we tried to do something in the second half that we hadn’t practiced–we tried to make an adjustment that we hadn’t practiced and we weren’t able to do that and they burned us a few times on that. Aside from that, tonight we made some progress.”
Agreed. Two steps ahead tonight.