Washington’s 102-75 victory against Long Beach State went as scripted. Sort of. Lorenzo Romar hinted about a lineup change, but it didn’t become apparent sophomore Aziz N’Diaye would receive his first career start until minutes before the game.
Romar said he made the switch to reward the 7-foot center who played well last week at the Maui Invitational. Romar didn’t talk about sending a message to senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning (left), who was benched for the first time since the Feb. 11 California game last season. He started 17 straight games before tonight.
Romar told Bryan-Amaning last Saturday he was making a change and they spent a lot of time together watching video of the UW forward. Bryan-Amaning led the team in scoring and rebounding, but he had spotty performances last week against Virginia and Kentucky.
When asked about the video sessions with Romar, Bryan-Amaning said: “You don’t see it when you’re in the game. You think you’re putting as much effort as you can. He just knows the level that I had been playing at at the end of last year then the first couple of games this year. Instead of being lackadaisical just bringing it the whole time I’m on the floor.”
Bryan-Amaning received assurances from Romar the benching may be temporary.
“He told me it’s not permanent,” Bryan-Amaning said. “It’s nothing for the rest of the season. If I show what I’m supposed to show, then I’ll back in the starting five.”
Bryan-Amaning could be better suited with the reserves. We’ll see. But he gives UW offensive firepower coming off the bench along with three-point specialist C.J. Wilcox, who was the big star tonight.
If Romar was trying to send a message, then Bryan-Amaning got the point. He connected on all seven of his shots and finished with 14 points and five rebounds against an undersized Long Beach State squad.
The naysayers will say Bryan-Amaning always dominates smaller teams and he should punish opponents that play behind him with just one defender. Still, he was aggressive on both ends of the court and finished with a season-high four blocks. He said all the right things during the post-game press conference and gave no signs as if the benching will negatively affect his confidence.
The 23rd-ranked Huskies (4-2) need him because he’s their best low-post scoring option and the 49ers couldn’t stop him.
It wasn’t just Bryan-Amaning, nearly everyone on Washington’s team played well offensively. Three players established or tied a career-high in scoring and UW shot 61.2 percent from the field, which is a season high. Washington also had 24 assists and blocked seven shots, which tied for a season high.
Photo credit: AP Photo – Elaine Thompson
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Wilcox was the clear-cut MVP in my opinion. He scored a career-high 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including six three-pointers. He is the second UW player this season to score at least 20 points. (Bryan-Amaning is the other). When Wilcox plays this well, it makes you think why he was only averaging 13.0 minutes in the first five games and why he only played three minutes against Michigan State.
To Romar’s defense, UW tried to force feed Wilcox against Kentucky and he missed four of five shots in 12 minutes. Perhaps that outing led Romar to believe the redshirt freshman wasn’t ready for a team like the Spartans. Whatever the reason, Romar poked fun at himself after the game and said he was smart enough to play Wilcox 23 minutes tonight.
— Isaiah Thomas bounced back from uneven performances in Hawaii. He missed all six of his three-pointers, but Thomas scored 19 points on 8-for-17 shooting. He also collected a team-high tying six rebounds and delivered six assists in 29 minutes. Thomas did a little bit of everything including collect two steals.
“I just wanted to be highly aggressive,” Thomas said. “That’s not just me trying to score, but making plays for others, so I came in with the mindset that I have to turn it up a bit from the first five games and be aggressive, make plays for others and myself.”
— You would think more would be made of Abdul Gaddy’s career-high 17 points, but he scored 11 in the second half when the outcome was decided. And quite frankly, it was a quiet 17 points if that makes any sense. He was efficient in the first half connecting on 3 of 4 shots for six points and after the break, Gaddy drained all three of his three-pointers. Normally that kind of performance would draw rave reviews and Romar singled him out, but it’s not as if Gaddy hasn’t been building to this kind of night. He’s scored in double figures in four of six games.
— Venoy Overton looked like the old Venoy Overton. Still not sure if he’s hampered by the tail bone injury suffered two weeks ago because I didn’t talk to him after the game. But he was his old annoying self. He pestered the LBSU guards into an unofficial six turnovers and collected three steals. Overton also made good decisions in transition and finished with a career-high tying eight assists.
— What’s happened to Darnell Gant? Whatever it is, he should bottle it and sell it on eBay. Gant has found his stroke. He connected on both three-pointer, which makes him 6 for 7 in the past four games. Gant also finished with a career-high tying 10 points for the second time in the past three games. Granted he did most of his work in the second half, but these are confidence-building performances, which can only help UW down the road. Gant also collected a season-high tying five rebounds.
—- Justin Holiday was scoreless in first half and turned it on during a spurt early in the second half that included a three-pointer, a steal for a layup and a dunk in traffic. Before the offensive onslaught, Holiday was notable because he tried forcing the ball inside to N’Diaye and they just weren’t able to connect. Holiday committed three turnovers, which offset three assists.
— N’Diaye looked out of sorts against a smaller team that played a 2-3 zone. He couldn’t get comfortable. He didn’t find the seams. His timing was off for rebounds and he collected just one in 13 minutes. He also had just one point and two of Holiday’s turnovers were probably his fault because the passes were on the money, but he didn’t handle them.
— Terrence Ross didn’t shoot well (0 for 4), but the freshman pulled down six rebounds and perhaps just as important, he had three assists. Ross is building a reputation as a shoot-first guard, so it’s good to know he can create shots for others.
— Brendan Sherrer got in and he’s still the only UW player who hasn’t scored this season. Someone has to tell him you can’t score if you don’t shoot and he hasn’t attempted a field goal.