Thursday, January 6, 2011

Freshman Ross leads #23 Huskies over Ducks 87-69

By Kshell

The #23 ranked Washington Huskies(11-3,3-0) overcame a slow first half to defeat the Oregon Ducks(7-8,0-3) 87-69 led by freshman Terrence Ross and Isaiah Thomas. The Huskies playing their first game without starting point guard Abdul Gaddy took some time to adjust to his absence. The Huskies started Senior point guard Venoy Overton in his place but it was Thomas who played the role of ball handler and facilitator once again. The Huskies were struggling but the talented freshman from Portland, Oregon Terrence Ross scored a career high 25 points in helping the Huskies take sole possession of first place in the conference.

The Huskies began the game on a 7-0 run which saw Justin Holiday score the first five points of the game. It was looking like the first place Huskies would roll over the last place Ducks but the Ducks had second thoughts. The Huskies were struggling at times settling for three point shots in the first half and saw themselves in a 31-31 tie. That is when Ross and Scott Suggs went on an 8-2 run to close out the half to give the Huskies a 39-33 lead.

At halftime the Huskies were led by the freshman Ross who score 11 points on five for nine shooting and Scott Suggs who had eight points on three for five shooting including two of two from three point range. Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored six points and five rebounds in the first half. Isaiah Thomas shot just one for five and had two points but did add six assists as he is playing more a team role with Gaddy gone. The Huskies were settling for three point shots launching up 15 of them but only hitting five. The Ducks shot just 12-32(37.5%) and 3-8 from threes(37.5%) while the Huskies shot 17-40(42.5%) from the field. The Huskies needed to just run their offense inside out instead of launching up threes.

In the second half the Ducks went on a 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game 42-41 in hopes of pulling off the stunning upset for the second straight season. After losing eight years in a row up in Seattle the Ducks shocked the Pac-10 when they defeated the Huskies last year in Seattle. At one point in the game the score was 51-51 when the Huskies started to get serious on defense. Up 62-57, Holiday made a terrific pass in transition to Bryan-Amaning who threw down the dunk to go up 64-57. The Huskies leading 71-59 with 5:04 left in the game had a strange lineup out there with Thomas, Suggs, Darnell Gant, Aziz N'Diaye and Ross.

At that point in the game Thomas took over the game. Thomas scored 18 points in the second half while shooting six of nine from the field. Thomas had a terrific alley-oop pass to Terrence Ross that put the game away for good. Then Thomas had a steal and like Nate Robinson threw down a dunk to give the Huskies an 84-66 lead. Just for good measure Thomas then drilled a three pointer with a minute to go in the game. Thomas would finish the game shooting 7-14 with two three pointers, 20 points, nine assists for the second straight game and six rebounds while having three steals. Once again Thomas proving that he is the best player in the conference when he thinks team first.

This game had to be painful for Duck fans to see Terrence Ross who was the Oregon State player of the year as a sophomore back in 2008 going off on them. Ross who will be asked to step up in Abdul Gaddy's absence took advantage of his playing time. Ross finished with 25 points on 11-18 shooting with three three pointers, four steals and two blocks. Ross in the second half added 14 points on six for nine shooting. Another player who played big for the Huskies was Scott Suggs who finished with 13 points on five for eight shooting including three for five on three pointers. Matthew Bryan-Amaning added 13 points and eight rebounds with two blocks on 6-12 shooting(3-4 in the second half). Justin Holiday scored just seven points but often times had to bring the ball up the court.

Overall the Huskies did what good teams do which is put teams away late. In the second half the Huskies shot 19-30 from the field(63.3%) to the Ducks 12-29(41.3%) which was the difference in the second half. The Huskies were getting transition buckets and when they are running nobody can stop them. When Isaiah Thomas is scoring close to or 20 points a game with over nine assists no team in the conference including Arizona can sniff the Huskies. The Huskies and especially Thomas are playing great basketball. Now the conference should be scared because the Huskies have a star on the horizen and his name is Terrence Ross.


- The Huskies big men didn't play their best game but still played well as a unit. Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored 13 points and added eight rebounds with two blocks. Aziz N'Diaye scored just two points, with three rebounds but had two blocks. Darnell Gant added four points and four rebounds. These aren't exactly jaw dropping numbers I know.

N'Diaye played good defense inside limiting Joevan Catron to shoot just 5-14(35.7%) from the field. With him and Bryan-Amaning teams will have a tough time scoring inside on the Huskies which will force teams to shoot from the outside. Gant had just four points but both buckets were hustle buckets. After a Bryan-Amaning miss Gant cleaned up the bucket with a tip in, when Thomas was in trouble Gant cut to the hole for an easy bucket.

- Isaiah Thomas has played terrific the last two games. In the last two games Thomas is averaging 18.5 PPG, 9.0 APG, 4.5 RPG, 2.5 steals a game while shooting 12-23(52.1%) from the field, 3-6 from three point range(50.0%) and 10-13 from free throws(76.9%) while having a 3.6:1 ratio of assists to turnovers.

Thomas is actually scoring more than his career average(16.1) but is now getting his teammates involved. Thomas is taking better shots and driving to the hole where he is either scores or the defense collapses on him and he is kicking it out to open teammates or cutting big men for easy dunks. Thomas is gearing up for another first team all Pac-10 selection and possibly player of the year award.

- Terrence Ross was called by Romar as the best athlete he has ever coached before. Ross has a great upside and everyone knows just how good he could be. What most didn't know including myself just how soon he would be this good.

Heading into the year with seven returning scholarship players and with Aziz N'Diaye coming in the thought was there wouldn't be many minutes left for Ross. Ross heading into today had played the least amount of minutes amongst scholarship players. Ross was rated as the third best shooting guard in the country according to Since Ross signed same day as Terrence Jones everyone was so focused on Jones who will be a top five pick in the NBA draft this upcoming year we forgot that the Huskies just landed a really good player themselves in Ross.

Ross is a great athlete and can shoot the ball very well this year. He isn't afraid to shoot either when he comes into the game he jacks up his shots but when you shoot close to 50% who is complaining. Someone has to step up and take over Abdul Gaddy's 23 minutes a game. Ross could be that guy who also provides height to the team which they need in the backcourt with Gaddy done for the year.

Ross will still have his growing pains and there will be games where he struggles(like against UCLA) but going forward he is going to be a good Husky. Next year with Ross, Gaddy and Wroten coming in the future is very bright for the Huskies. As for this year well Ross can and has already contributed to this very deep Huskies roster.

At the end of the day the Huskies won the game with defense. The Ducks went ice cold which led to plenty of easy buckets for the Huskies. The Huskies must some more ball handlers to replace Gaddy as Thomas and Overton alone won't do the job. When the Huskies are feeding the ball inside and dishing out they are much more dangerous than settling for three point shots. The Huskies are now 3-0 in Pac-10 play and with Oregon State at home a team who they are 13-2 against the last seven years, 4-0 is very probable. The Pac-10 schedule shapes out nicely for the Huskies since they swept in Los Angeles. As long as Thomas is playing team ball and with new rising star Ross pouring in points the Huskies are tough to beat.

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