Let the good times roll.
That’s the theme tonight after Washington’s 109-77 win over California. There’s something about the Golden Bears that brings out the best in the Huskies. Last month, UW went to Berkeley, Calif. and toppled Cal 92-71.
Tonight’s win was even more impressive. The Huskies jumped on the Bears early and ran away with the game because their defense allowed Cal to attempt just 58 field goals while UW had 76.
The Bears shot the ball well (48.3 percent) from the field, but they were awful from the free throw line (19 of 37) and they were a paltry 2 of 7 on three-pointers.
I asked Lorenzo Romar about the free throw disparity – UW was 6 of 7 – and the UW coach pointed to the Huskies’ field goal and three-point statistics. The Huskies converted 56.6 percent (43 of 76) from the field and 54.8 percent (17 of 31) on three-pointers.
The 17 three-pointers ties a school record. Several other benchmarks were set. UW finished with season highs in assists (30) and blocks (11). The 109 points is the most ever for Washington against a Pac-10 school. And the Huskies topped 100 points for the sixth time this season, which is also a school record.
Romar has been preaching defense for the past two weeks so it’s no surprise he credited the blowout to a renewed commitment to defense.
“Well for us it all starts on the defensive end,” he said. “Defensive energy, focus, and concentration allows us to be a better basketball team, and I think that’s what we’ve been talking about here.
“Hopefully our team was able to see that tonight and have kind of a reminder of what can happen when you come and you are intense defensively. It’s interesting that the focus and alertness that it takes to go out and defend like that somehow transfers over to the offensive end. In a lot of cases, because you’re dialed in, you’re just a little sharper all the way around. I think that was the case tonight.”
Cal coach Mike Montgomery has historically complained about Washington’s aggressive defense and tonight was no different. He pleaded for calls and maybe that’s why the Bears went to the line 37 times.
“They don’t care,” Montgomery said. “They foul every time at every position and they aren’t going to call it every time. So ultimately you are going to get worn down after a while. They are very physical because they are able to play nine guys throughout the game. They just do not care if they foul they are not going to let you get to the basket.”
Okay that’s one way to look at it.
The end result was all Washington. This game may have addressed the immediate concern of stopping the Huskies’ three-game losing streak, but it doesn’t fully sway install confidence that UW knows how to win a tough game on the road.
But then, that’s a question for another day. For now, the Huskies are happy to win a game for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Plenty of stars tonight, but I felt the player of the game was Matthew Bryan-Amaning. He got the Huskies going early on offensively and staked them to an 13-8 lead with a jumper. The senior forward was efficient connecting on 9 of 13 shots for 18 points. But for the first time this season, I thought he played better on the defensive end where he controlled the paint and held Bears leading scorer Harper Kamp to eight points on 3 for 10 shooting. Bryan-Amaning tied his season high with four blocked shots. He also collected a game-high nine rebounds.
— Maybe it’s the sight of freshman Brandon Smith. Whatever it is, Isaiah Thomas (right) thrives against Cal. This season he has 50 points, 22 assists and just seven turnovers against the Bears. That is absolutely amazing. Thomas said he slowed down tonight. He was rushing to make plays during the three-game losing streak when he had 16 turnovers. Thomas was also aided by teammates who made shots and were on the receiving end of several thread-the-needle passes. Twice Thomas found Terrence Ross (above, right) along the baseline for highlight passes. Cal played a 2-3 zone, which has stymied Washington, but Thomas was still effective.
He said: “We feel like a lot of teams are going to turn to the zone against us because of how we played those last three games but we’re ready for it. We start playing defense like we did today, we’ll start getting the shots like we did today and guys will knock them down.”
— Justin Holiday did it on both ends. Before freshman Allen Crabbe left the game midway in the first half with a concussion, Cal’s third leading scorer had just two points thanks to Holiday. Washington’s senior co-captain converted half of his shots (5 of 10). He scored 12 points. He had two three-pointers. He collected four rebounds. He delivered four assists. He blocked two shots. And he played just 21 minutes, which was the fewest for a starter.
— After panning UW’s defense, Montgomery dished out high praise on Ross. The Cal coach said: “Ross is terrific he is a starter at any other school. He can really shoot the ball.” Ross was terrific. He had one moment when he was out of control and made a bad foul defensively in the second half. Otherwise, he looked poised. He made the extra pass. He created scoring opportunities for others. He finished with six assists. He converted four field goals inside the arc, which is the most since the first Oregon State game. Ross had 11 points and four rebounds.
— Venoy Overton played his best game in weeks. The last time he was this good was also against the Beavers back on Jan. 8. Overton was active defensively. He got his hands on a lot of passes. He made deflections that sometimes led to turnovers and other times they stalled Cal’s offense. His biggest asset is is his speed and it looked as if that returned tonight. Overton blew past Cal players on dribble drives. He also connected with teammates for seven assists.
— Got to like the intensity from Aziz N’Diaye, but he battled the refs as much as he did the Cal players. N’Diaye collected a technical foul in the second half when he swatted the ball after a questionable call. It was his fourth personal foul. Otherwise, N’Diaye was a force inside. He played big. He blocked three shots. He also scored all six of his points before the midpoint in the first half, including UW’s first four points.
— Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox each shot the ball well from the perimeter. Wilcox (14 points) drained four three-pointers and Suggs (11 points) had three treys.
— It’s always a good game for Darnell Gant when he collects five rebounds in 19 minutes. He also had six points. Gant’s offensive confidence is growing. He took nine shots, including a three-pointer on a fast break that was off target.
— Brendan Sherrer logged a career-high five minutes and freshman Antoine Hosley had career-high tying three minutes. Sherrer passed up a layup while Hosley connected with Wilcox for a three-pointer.
Photo credits: Seattle Times – Dean Rutz