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Husky Men's Basketball

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

January 22, 2011 at 10:50 PM

Huskies off to their best Pac-10 start in quarter of a century

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“I’ve waited a long time for this, so yeah it feels good,” Matthew Bryan-Amaning (left) said following his career-high 30-point performance that led No. 20 Washington to an 88-75 win over Arizona State.
It was a brilliant display of speed and power. It was Bryan-Amaning at his best. He proved to be a mismatch nightmare for the Sun Devils and their pesky 3-2 zone. Against the smaller ASU players, he overpowered them. Against ASU’s twin 7-footers, he danced around them en route to an 11-for-16 shooting display.
Sensing the hot hand, the Huskies fed Bryan-Amaning in the post on the first play and never stopped. He scored 16 points in the first half and 14 in the second.
“You could see guys were taking our time,” Bryan-Amaning said. “We were swinging a lot from side to side trying to get ball reversals and trying to find an open shot. Guys were giving up good shots to get great shots.”
While Washington was cold on the outside – UW shot 30 percent (6 of 20) on three-pointers – nearly everything was working for Bryan-Amaning inside. He was so hot, the 58.2 percent free throw shooter made all eight of his foul shots.
It would have been nice if he’d been able to grab one more rebound for his seventh double double of the season. As it stands, he had nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal that more than offset a turnover in 30 brilliant minutes.
“I know he’s capable, but he hadn’t scored this much,” Justin Holiday said. “But at the same time, we tried to feed him more. I know I was. Every time I got it, it seemed like he was there and I went to him. They didn’t have the same bigs that they had in the past so why not go into Matthew because he can score.
“He plays way harder now all the time. He understands exactly what he needs to do. And as far as his post moves offensively, he’s more patient. He does easier moves. He doesn’t do as many moves. He would travel on that up-and-under (move). Now he’s smart. He can pump fake to get you off balance then make his move. He’s just more of a complete player.”
Bryan-Amaning’s work offensively beneath the glass kept the Huskies in the game long enough for Isaiah Thomas to take over in the second half and ultimately carry UW in the final minutes to its 12th straight win at Edmundson Pavilion.
Since Thomas took over the point guard duties, he and Bryan-Amaning have formed an destructive duo. In many ways, they’re the modern day John Stockton and Karl Malone. They work well together in the half court on pick-n-rolls and they’re amazing on the fast break, which was on display early in the second half when Bryan-Amaning flushed an alley-oop from Thomas that brought the house down.
Together they accounted for 49 points (55.7 percent of UW’s points) and 15 rebounds (45.4 percent of UW’s boards).
“Obviously I have a great feel for Isaiah and maybe that’s because we’ve played together for so long,” Bryan-Amaning said. “He knows where I’m going to be and I know how he plays. He’s so aggressive and he’s determined to win. That’s what makes him so good.”
It wasn’t a spectacular game from Washington, but it was an important finish for a team that has had difficulties in close games. Washington led by just three points (74-71) with 2:43 remaining and outscored ASU 14-4 the rest of the game.
The Huskies’ 88 points is the most scored against a Herb Sendek team in regulation.
Washington improved to 15-4 overall and 7-1 in the Pac-10 for its best conference start since the 1985-86 season. That season the Huskies finished second in the Pac-10 at 13-5.
This season promises a better finish.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:


— What a game for Thomas. He did it all. He scored 19 points. He dished out eight assists. He collected six rebounds. He swiped three steals. He knocked down 8 of 10 free throws. He sank a three-pointer. He made mistakes (four turnovers) and recovered. And he played tremendous defense, particularly in the second half against ASU’s leading scorer Ty Abbott. In many ways, today’s games was even better than Sunday’s virtuoso performance (27 points and 13 assists) at California because of the defensive aspect. Thomas is proving to everyone that despite his size – he’s 5 foot 9 – he’s an all-around point guard and arguably the best Player in the Pac-10. Right now, he’s displaying few weaknesses. And he’s doing what leaders do. He takes over games at opportune moments.
Coach Lorenzo Romar remember last season’s first-round NCAA tournament matchup against Marquette when Darius Johnson-Odom torched UW in the first half. Thomas demanded he defend Johnson-Odom, which helped the Huskies in the victory. Today was similar except this time, Thomas didn’t have to say anything.
“In the Marquette game, when Odem for Marquette was having his way with us he said ‘Let me take him please!’ ” Romar said. “He didn’t want to look me in the eye because he didn’t want me to think he was telling me what to do. He just kind of said it and I heard him and the words curved over and I remember the guy barely touched the ball the second half of the game.
“This year, guys that he defends, he is so good at just taking them out of the game.”
Got to say I agree with Romar. You’d be hard pressed to name a better defender among the Huskies and that’s high praise considering they had two of the five Pac-10 All-Defensive picks last season.
— Best game as a starter by far for Scott Suggs, who finally looked comfortable with the first unit. The junior guard is a shooter and when he’s spotting up and making shots, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Today he drained 4 of 5 shots including two three-pointers for 10 points. Suggs has played his best games at home where he’s averaging 10.2 points per game. The next stage in his development requires him to play well on the road where he averages 2.6 points in eight games. The only other knock on Suggs, he needs to improve as a ball-handler. Once or twice, he’s asked to bring the ball up and direct the offense and he doesn’t appear comfortable in that role just yet.
— Despite his size, 7-foot Aziz N’Diaye tends to disappear against a zone. Granted he doesn’t get many opportunities offensively especially when Bryan-Amaning takes 16 shots and scores 30 points. Still, N’Diaye is a better man-to-man defender and he’s not polished just yet to find the holes inside a tough zone like the one he saw today. He collected just one rebound, which is the fewest since his first start on Nov. 30 against Long Beach State.
— The shots didn’t fall for Holiday, but he did everything else. He was the only player other than Thomas and Venoy Overton to get an assists. He had three. Holiday also collected five rebounds and helped UW to a 33-25 advantage on the glass. Solid effort from Holiday, but it could have been better if he hadn’t allowed Abbott to escape for a couple of open shots in the first half.
— Overton was the only reserve who provided a significant spark. He defended and pressured the opposing point guard. More importantly, he distributed five assists and committed just one turnover. It might have been a very impressive game for Overton if he had drained the two three-pointers he took. Both were open shots, but he’s struggled behind the arc. He’s shooting 24 percent (6 of 25) on treys.
— Romar said Friday it would be difficult to find playing time for C.J. Wilcox, however, the redshirt freshman played 17 minutes. It’s the most since the Texas A&M game, which is the start to his shooting slump. Wilcox looked a lot better today than he has in recent weeks. He was 2 for 4 from the field, including a three-pointer.
— Solid efforts from Terrence Ross (six points in 17 minutes) and Darnell Gant (four points in 10 minutes). Gant also had nice putback tip and a alley oop dunk from Thomas that made the Husky highlights.
— A few words on the defense. The Huskies took a step back today. ASU shot 50 percent from the field and 60 percent (9 of 15) on three-pointers. The Huskies won’t win games on the road playing defense like that. And this was against one of the worst shooting teams in the Pac-10, who was shorthanded. Junior forward Carrick Felix, who had been battling the flu and missed Thursday’s game, started and played four minutes in the first half and 8 in the second. He’s ASU’s second leading scorer against Pac-20 teams.
“Our main problem was just, we did a little bit of switching with some of the guys and we
weren’t communicating,” Suggs said. “We had two guys one-to-one, which was leaving a guy open. In the first half, there was just a little bit of miscommunication. Then Isaiah [Thomas] did a really good job in the second half and I think that helped us out.”

Comments | Topics: C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs, top 25

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