Photo credit: AP Photo – Elaine Thompson
Just when you thought you had this team pegged, this happens. When you believed there was nothing new to learn from the final two non-conference games before the start of the Pac-10 season, when you were ready for the real season – those are Isaiah Thomas’ words – to begin, coach Lorenzo Romar, tweaks the starting lineup.
And now, Washington has a new look. Two big guys in the middle. Six-foot-9 Matthew Bryan-Amaning (above) regained a starting assignment, but he moved to the power forward position alongside 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye.
In some ways, the Huskies have gone traditional. They look like a NBA team, with a big front line that matches up well against the likes of USC and UCLA.
Suddenly Washington, which was outrebounded by Division II Saint Martins and Eastern Washington, looks as if it can go toe to toe with any team in the country.
But then it’s easy to be impressed with the Huskies at home following another blowout win against a mid-level opponent. They took control of the game late in the first half and blew it wide open early in the second half with a 14-3 spurt after after halftime to take a 53-26 lead. The final 15 minutes were a collection of highlights that included stellar defense from Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton, a Bryan-Amaning dunk and three-pointers from Scott Suggs and Holiday.
The Huskies didn’t crack 100 largely because San Francisco dusted off the Four Corners offense and tried to slow down the game with an isolation attack. It was only partly successful. The Huskies were held 24 points below their scoring average at home, but they put up 39 points in the first half and 41 in the second. For the first time this season every Husky scored and in many ways it was their most complete win of the season.
Washington had more rebounds (40-33), more offensive rebounds (17-10), more assists 21-11), blocked more shots (8-1), collected more steals (9-1), attempted more shots (72-52), more three-pointers (26-15), fewer fouls (9-18) and fewer turnovers (4-17).
The only blemish tonight was UW’s 6 for 26 shooting behind the arc. Otherwise, it was the perfect antidote for last week’s one-point defeat at Texas A&M.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Difficult to find a MVP tonight. Honestly, you could give it to five guys, but I thought N’Diaye set the tone defensively, which enabled Bryan-Amaning to thrive and allowed the Huskies to slowly find their offensive rhythm. N’Diaye played 22 minutes, which is the most in the past six games. He displayed nice hands and caught a couple of difficult passes in the lane, finishing with powerful dunks. Defensively, he blocked four shots and collected five rebounds. N’Diaye said he’s been bothered by soreness in left knee, which he treats with medication and exercise. Despite nagging pain, he believes he can play 25-30 minutes if needed.
— With N’Diaye drawing USF’s big man, Bryan-Amaning had 6-8 Perris Blackwell and it was a mismatch. Blackwell scored more points (17-10), but Bryan-Amaning dominated on the offensive glass and collected seven offensive rebounds. He also swiped two steals and blocked a shot in 26 minutes.
When asked about the rebounding, he said: “I just didn’t want to hear coach anymore pretty much. We worked on it all week, obviously, and have done countless numbers of rebounding drills and we know that, even if we have success, it’s just going to keep going. You want to do it so that coach is off your back but, at the same time, if you do it, you’ll be successful doing it so you have to keep going. It’s just fun to be able to come in and outrebound the other team, especially when it’s been a point of notice the last few weeks.”
— Isaiah Thomas had just two points on 1-for-5 shooting at halftime, but you just knew he wouldn’t stay quiet for very long. He came out on fire in the second half scoring 10 straight points for Washington and helping the Huskies on its 14-3 spurt. In addition to 12 points, Thomas had five assists and two steals.
— On most nights, Suggs would have been the star. He missed just one shot, sank 6 of 7 including all three three-pointers and finished with a career-high 15 points. He also collected a career-high tying five rebounds. Suggs helped UW early. He entered the game with the Huskies leading 12-11 and quickly made two three-pointers and a long jumper that put them ahead 24-15.
— Abdul Gaddy dunked for the first time. He had a little bet with Thomas to see who would be the first one. Gaddy’s slam came early in the second half when he spotted an opening in the lane, drove to the basket and flushed it home. “It felt pretty good,” he said. Gaddy finished with 10 points, which is the sixth time he’s scored in double figures this season. He also had a career-high tying seven assists and no turnovers.
— Overton was Washington’s other standout performer. He quietly had an effective game. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (1 for 6), however, he finished with a season-high six rebounds and seven assists.
— Holiday did his best work on the defensive end collecting three steals and forcing two other turnovers. His three-pointer wasn’t falling tonight (1 for 5), but he wasn’t the only one struggling behind the arc.
— C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross and Darnell Gant each took five shots in limited minutes. Even though he substituted in midway in the first half, Gant appears to be the odd man out of the rotation.
— Brendan Sherrer can thank Overton again for setting him up his layup. Overton directed Sherrer to set a screen and delivered a pin-point pass that led to the score. Antoine Hosley also scored, knocking down a pair of free throws.