Isaiah Thomas summed up Washington’s 94-72 win over Portland when he said: “I looked up and we were up a lot, then I looked up and we were only up six and then we won by 22.”
The game ended in a blowout, but it took the Huskies longer than expected to make it a rout and there were some tense minutes when the Pilots shaved an 18-point, second-half lead to 68-62 with 8:25 remaining.
Portland coach Eric Reveno is very familiar with the Huskies and he threw everything he had at them. He applied token pressure in the backcourt, which slowed the tempo and forced UW’s ball handllers to patiently advance the ball up the floor.
The Pilots fell into a 2-3 zone at times, which collapsed around Matthew Bryan-Amaning, but left the corner shot open for Justin Holiday (right) who drained three first-half three-pointers and got off to another fast start.
Portland found a hot hand in Nemanja Mitrovic, who sank four second-half treys, and nearly spoiled Washington’s night.
And Reveno called a timeout each time the game looked as if it might get out of hand.
Still, Washington cleared every hurdle. The Huskies finished with 20 assists. They shot 53.4 percent from the field (31 of 58), 56.5 percent on three-pointers (13 of 23) and they led 36-32 on rebounds. Washington also forced 14 turnovers for 21 points and committed a season-low tying nine turnovers.
This was the test coach Lorenzo Romar wanted for his team.
“It was great,” he said. “It would be great if we could win every game by 30 points, but
that’s not reality. We were in a position tonight where we are going to be. We are going to be in this position a lot more coming up and we were able to be there. We haven’t been there, the two games in Maui were really close.
“This time we had a lead and we had to protect the lead. We made some mistakes in doing that, but because we are here, we are going to be able to learn from it. So it was a great situation. Would you have said, ‘Would you rather preferred to win by 30 or 40? No.’ I like what he had to do in this game and what we learned about ourselves.”
Washington probably spoiled its fans after scoring at least 100 points in the previous two games, but Holiday doesn’t care about that.
“For me, personally, I don’t really think about how many points we score,” he said. “As long as we win, I’m happy.”
Reveno has lost to Kentucky and Washington and believes the Huskies are better suited to hold up over the course of a five-month season.
“Washington seems more mature, and less likely to have ups and downs throughout the season,” he said. “They seem more solid because of veterans. Kentucky has a scary group of young guys, but Washington has veteran guys who really understand the system and are playing really well.”
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— I wrote my game story around Scott Suggs and believe he was the MVP because he scored eight points during a critical 11-0 stretch when Portland pulled to within six points. It was good to see Suggs in a starring role because he’s had a bit of a whirlwind season so far. He started the exhibition and was a candidate for a starting job that eventually went to Darnell Gant. He had a solid start in the first three games, but played just six minutes against Kentucky and sprained his right MCL against Michigan State, which forced him to sit out the next game.
Suggs said he’s still bothered by the injury and estimates he’s about 75-80 percent. Despite the injury, he tied his career high of 13 points and sank some big shots when Washington needed them.
— This might have been the best game this season for Thomas. He did a little bit of everything. He scored a game-high tying 20 points. He collected a team-high seven rebounds. He dished out four assists. And he held Portland’s best player Jared Stohl to 5-for-14 shooting and 12 points. The only blemish on Thomas’ stellar night, he missed four of nine free throws. Otherwise, he was outstanding.
Said Romar: “Isaiah Thomas was a warrior tonight. He leads us in rebounds with seven. He chased, Jared Stohl, who is a tremendous shooter and they run a lot of stuff for him. He chased him all night and I thought did a good job. And then he went out and scored 20 points himself. Man he was a real warrior.”
— The same might be said for Holiday. He also scored 20 points, including 14 in the first half. He collected six rebounds. He drained 3 of 4 treys and was 7 for 8 at the line. Plus, he helped Gant bang with Luke Sikma. Holiday wasn’t flawless. At times he lost track of Mitrovic during his three-point spree that got Portland back into the game.
Holiday also displayed great composure after he was fouled hard from behind on a breakaway layup and went crashing to the floor. Holiday said he anticipated the foul and criticized himself for jumping off one leg instead of two.
— Bryan-Amaning was UW’s other star. I asked him about coming off the bench and he said there’s no change in his approach. Since the demotion, he’s scored 14, 18 and tonight he had 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He also had six rebounds, three steals, two assists and two turnovers.
“He’s handling it pretty well,” Holiday said. “If this happened in the past, you know maybe he would have tapped out. But he knows what he has to do. He knows he’s still a big part of this team and him coming in and playing like that is even better for the whole team. I think he’s handling it well.”
Bryan-Amaning left the gym with a bag of ice around his right foot. He said he sprained his right ankle before the Texas Tech game and it’s been nagging him for several days.
— Solid if unspectacular game from Abdul Gaddy who had eight points and a season-high tying six assists. He also connected on two of three treys, both of which were timely.
— Maybe Venoy Overton is still bothered by the tail bone injury he suffered weeks ago, but it was unusual to see Portland freshman guard Tim Douglas routinely blow past him for layups. Overton finished with four assists and three steals, which is the most in the past six games, but he gave up an inordinate amount of layups.
— Gant and Aziz N’Diaye were overshadowed by Sikma, who finished with 16 rebounds and 14 points. Gant continued to show his range and drained a three-pointer, but he had three rebounds. N’Diaye finished with five boards in 12 minutes.
— C.J. Wilcox continued his streak of making a three-pointer in every game this season. He had two tonight.
— Terrence Ross is having a difficult time finding minutes, however, he didn’t play in the second half because he injured his right calf. Ross walked out of the gym in a walking boot and said he should be fine for Wednesday’s practice.
— Brendan Sherrer and Antoine Hosley each made an appearance late in the game.
— And finally, the crowd gave standing ovations for football coach Steve Sarkisian and former UW star Nate Robinson (below) who were at the game tonight. Not sure why Robinson was in Seattle. He played Sunday in New Jersey, scoring a team-high 21 points and he has a game Wednesday in Boston.
— And one more thing, I can’t wait to post the results of the Guess the UW Score contest. I haven’t tallied the results, but I’m feeling pretty good about my chances.