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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

January 16, 2011 at 10:21 PM

Everybody watches Isaiah Thomas, but no one can stop him

Washington_California_Basketball.JPG
Photo credit: AP Photo – Marcio Jose Sanchez
Just as he dominated Washington’s 92-71 win at California, Isaiah Thomas (above, far right) dominated the post-game conversation following the blowout victory at Haas Pavilion.
Golden Bears coach Mike Montgomery: “Fact of the matter, Isaiah Thomas really had his way. He got his confidence early. We got some fouls trying to double up on him on the ball screen, but he got penetration any time he wanted to.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar: “It was probably the best performance I have seen him have as a Husky. He was the band conductor orchestrating that game for all of the 35 minutes he was in there. He was really good. He’s been playing like this since we started conference games.”
Cal guard Brandon Smith: “He had an awesome game. You have got to give it to him and the team. They wanted it more than we wanted it tonight.”
UW guard Scott Suggs: “He did a great job of finding guys.”
UW forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning: “He gets everybody else involved. He gets a lot of the shooters open looks and obviously the dump off for the big guys. It just helps everybody else. I know he can score.”
UW forward Justin Holiday: “I’ve been with Isaiah for three years so I know how he can play. I know what he can do. He’s a good leader. I like playing with him because he wants to win. … Having him on the floor makes it easier for someone like me or Matthew or Scott or anybody else because they (the defense) is worried about him.”
And Thomas: “As a Husky this was probably one of my best games. I was scoring. I was getting others involved. I was doing everything. The biggest thing, I was leading. I was telling guys don’t let up. We let up that Thursday night game and got us our loss. Just leading today.”
Anybody who wasn’t sure if Thomas could play point guard, they need to watch a video of this game. You can knock the opposition, but you can’t knock the performance. Thomas had a game for the ages.
He scored 27 points, which is a season-high and three shy of his career best. He connected on 8 of 16 shots from the field. He dropped three three-pointers. He sank all eight of his free throws and if he didn’t do anything else, it would have been an amazing performance.
But Thomas’ full-array of talents were on display, especially his ability to pass.
He distributed a career-high 13 assists, which tied for the fifth best in school history. The last Husky with at least 13 assist was Will Conroy who did it twice in 2004.
Thomas said he’s got his sights set on the school record of 16 assists in a game set by Rafael Stone in 1970. Thomas is 16th on UW’s all-time scoring list and 10th on the all-time assists list. He said he’s fully embraced the idea of being a passer.
“It’s another dimension of my game that people say I don’t have,” Thomas said. “I’m trying to prove people wrong. Big ups to my teammates because without them, I can’t get the assists.”
Thomas also had four rebounds and two steals, which negated his five turnovers. He played a team-high 35 minutes.
I sat near a NBA scout and spoke to him at halftime. He said Thomas “turned a corner” in the eyes of NBA scouts.
“If he can run a team like he has tonight, he could make it (to the NBA),” the scout said. “That’s what you really didn’t know about him.”
The scout also raved about Thomas’ knack for converting difficult layups after drawing contact that often sends him sprawling to the floor. He was also impressed at Thomas’ ability to run the pick-n-roll and either draw a foul or get a pass through tight spaces to Bryan-Amaning.
“Those are next-level plays,” the scout said.
At this level, Thomas simply overwhelmed Smith, a sophomore making his sixth start. The Golden Bears tried a little of everything to stop Thomas and it didn’t work. They tried two kinds of zone. They used a box-and-1 defense. And they used defensive specialist Jorge Gutierrez in the second half.
Thomas was undeterred. At one point, he smiled and winked to the Bears student section after Cal forward Markhuri Sanders-Frison drove him to the floor on a hard foul on a dribble drive. Thomas sank the layup and the ensuing free throw.
Then he motioned to the crowd and shrugged his shoulders as if he could hardly believe how well he was playing.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:


— Bryan-Amaning bounced back in a major way from Thursday’s lackluster effort. Just like Thomas, he too was amazing. But in a different way. Bryan-Amaning was efficient, connecting on 10 of 15 shots. He played big in the post and collected a game-high 11 rebounds. He also blocked two shots and created a steal. Perhaps the most impressive statistic for Bryan-Amaning, he played 34 minutes while Cal big men Harper Kamp logged 27 minutes and Markhuri Sanders-Frison played 23. Montgomery noted Bryan-Amaning has improved his conditioning since his freshman year. The Cal coach also said fatigued played a role in the Bears defeat.
— Say goodbye – at least for now – to Holiday’s shooting slump. He connected on 5 of 8 three-pointers, which are both career highs for the senior forward. He also had a career-best 23 points. Before Thursday’s Stanford game, Holiday was 2 for 11 on treys in the previous three games. In the past two contests, he’s 8 of 15.
Said Holiday: “I guess I had a little more confidence in me after having that game at Stanford because before that I really wasn’t hitting as much. You never know if you don’t shoot it. So I had to come out and be confident. I had to help out my team. I just can’t be out there. … If you’re open, you got to shoot it.”
Holiday surrendered 10 points to Cal freshman Allen Crabbe in the first half and limited him to six points in the second half.
— Suggs played 68 games before making his first start. He finished with three points on 1-for-3 shooting, but he also had four rebounds. Romar said tweaked the lineup and started the 6-foot-6 Suggs because he wanted a bigger body in the backcourt to take some defensive pressure off Thomas. In many ways, Suggs is similar to Aziz N’Diaye because his presence on the floor freed Thomas to dominate a smaller defender. Romar was unsure if he’d keep Suggs in the starting lineup against Arizona and Arizona State. Suggs also played point guard a few times while Thomas was on the wing.
— And speaking of N’Diaye, he fouled in in 16 minutes. The big guy might be hitting the proverbial freshman wall. He’s started the past 12 games and has played in all 17 after missing all of last season rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Physically N’Diaye looks OK, but it’s a mental drain playing major Division I basketball for a first-year starter. At times tonight, N’Diaye didn’t appear into the game. He played just 16 minutes and finished with three rebounds. His biggest drawback is defending without fouling.
Darnell Gant did everything he was supposed to do. He shot the ball well when he was open, including knocking down a three-pointer. He collected six rebounds. He doled out some hard fouls before being disqualified. And he played 20 minutes. His only miscues: two turnovers.
— After playing one of his best games Jan. 8 against Oregon State, Venoy Overton looks as if he’s slumping once again. He’s connected on 2 of 8 shots and has combined for five points, five rebounds and two assists in the past two games. Tonight he played a season-low 14 minutes. It’s tied for the third fewest in his four years at UW.
C.J. Wilcox made a three-pointer, which snapped a four-game drought. He was 0 for 9 before connecting on a trey in the corner with 2:30 left that gave UW a 90-69 lead. We’ll have to wait and see if tonight’s shot will snap him out of his slump. The game was shaping up to be another forgettable outing for Wilcox. He made a short appearance in the first half and was benched for seemingly not being in the right place when UW drew a 5-second penalty for failing to inbound the ball.
— One of the subplots featured Terrence Ross and Crabbe, two of the early candidates for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. Crabbe finished with 16 points and Ross had three. He picked up two quick fouls. The first was avoidable and the second was a wise defensive play, which stopped a point-blank layup. Still the foul forced Ross to the sideline. He also had four rebounds, two assists and two turnovers in 17 minutes. It was forgettable Bay Area trip for Ross, who was 1 for 7 and had three points at Stanford.
— Walk-ons Brendan Sherrer and Antoine Hosley played two minutes.
— Washington shot 52.3 percent (34 of 65) from the field and 44.8 (13 of 29) on three-pointers, which is the best in a true away game this season. The Huskies also had 20 assists, which is a high for UW when playing on the opponent’s court.

Comments | Topics: C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs

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