Monday, January 17, 2011

Thomas has career night in #17 Huskies 92-71 win over Golden Bears

By Kshell

Lorenzo Romar made yet another starting lineup change before the game at California. Which seems to be the theme after losses Romar started Scott Suggs who over Venoy Overton. That switch allowed Isaiah Thomas to fully take over as the point guard which he relishes. Thomas scored 27 points and dished out 13 assists in leading the #17 Washington Huskies (13-4,5-1) over the California Golden Bears(9-8,2-3) 92-71 down in Berkley. Thomas made sure there would be no sweep on this road trip as he came out scoring and setting up teammates. With help from Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday the Huskies defeated the California Golden Bears rather easily which sets up a home showdown with the Arizona Wildcats.

In the first half the Huskies got off to a slow start trailing 5-0 but then Thomas started to take over. Trailing 5-2, Thomas would hit Scott Suggs making his first career start for a three point shot to tie up the score. The Huskies would go on a run to extend their lead 19-11. The California Golden Bears would pull within 23-22 before the Huskies would go on a 13-2 run to extend the lead to 36-24. The Huskies would end the half making eight of ten field goals and lead 48-33.

Led by Isaiah Thomas who had 18 points on five for nine shooting, three for six from three point range while making all five free throws. If that wasn't enough Thomas also had six assists. Unlike the previous game the Huskies featured Matthew Byran-Amaning who made five of nine field goal attempts for 11 points and six rebounds. Justin Holiday added seven points on three for four shooting including a three pointer and three assists. Darnell Gant provided a spark off the bench scoring five points and grabbing five rebounds including hitting a three. For the half the Huskies shot 17-34 from the field, 7-14 from three point range and 7-7 from free throws. The Huskies also outrebounded the Bears 18-13.

In the second half Justin Holiday made sure the California Golden Bears wouldn't be making any second half comebacks. Holiday scored the first five points of the second half to give the Huskies a 53-33 lead. The game would never get closer than 14 points and whenever it did Thomas, Bryan-Amaning or Holiday would score to end the comeback attempt. Holiday in the second half would score 16 points while making 6 of 10 shots including four of six from the three point line. Bryan-Amaning would score 11 points on five for six shooting while controlling the glass with five more rebounds. Thomas wouldn't slow down scoring nine points on three for seven shooting with seven more assists. The Huskies would go on to win 92-71 improving to 5-1 in Pac-10 play.

The Huskies won at Berkley for just the third time in the Lorenzo Romar era and blew out a Mike Montgomery team who many consider to be the Pac-10's best coach. The Huskies were led by their big three of Isaiah Thomas who scored a season high 27 points on 8-16 shooting while making all eight free throw attemps. He also stole two passes and made three three pointers. He also set a career high in assists with 13 the most since Will Conroy had 14 at California in 2005. Justin Holiday scored a career high 23 points while making 9-14 shots, he also hit a career high five three pointers. Matthew Bryan-Amaning continueing his destruction of the Pac-10 scored 22 points on 10-15 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds with two blocks. The Huskies big three combined to score 72 points which is enough to beat the entire California team.

The Huskies now return home to take on both Arizona schools. All eyes will be on the Thursday matchup where the winner will be in first place. The Huskies have defeated Arizona in Seattle the last three years. Romar is 9-9 all-time against Arizona which isn't bad considering they were the premiere team in the conference when he first took over. The Huskies got a split in the bay area and sure fans would have loved to get a sweep they'll take a split. The Huskies despite starting off on the road four of their first six Pac-10 games are now 5-1 which any fan would sign up for. The Huskies are now done playing in the state of California after going 3-1 until the Pac-10 tournament. With the way Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning have been playing the Huskies still remain the favorites in the conference.


- No offense to Klay Thompson or Derrick Williams who are both great players but Isaiah Thomas is the best player in the conference and it's not even close. Thomas on the year is averaging 16.5 points per game, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds while getting 1.4 steals a game. He is also shooting 45.7% from the field while making close to two three pointers a game.

In Pac-10 play Thomas has been even better since he has transformed his game into a point guard. In league play so far Thomas is averaging 17.8 points per game, 8.2 assists per game, 3.3 rebounds while getting 1.7 steals a game. He is also shooting 33 for 71(46.5%) while making two three pointers a game. Thomas is stepping his game up in league play and that could lead to him playing in the NBA next season. Thomas is showing scouts he can play point guard while being a scorer at the same time.

- Justin Holiday came on strong in the second half against Stanford scoring a game high 16 points all in the second half. Against California Holiday scored a career high 23 points which once again saw him score 16 in the second half. Holiday hit five three pointers which was also a career high.

Holiday was also asked to guard freshman Allen Crabbe who torched the Washington State Cougars for 30 points previous game. Crabbe was held to 16 points on 4-10 shooting. With Holiday you always have the defense and with his scoring it was a nice touch for the Huskies. The Huskies have two consistent scorers and the bay area trip was good for Holiday to break out of his slump.

- The Huskies didn't get much from their bench against California. One guy on the bench did produce which was Darnell Gant. Gant hit an early three pointer, and when Thomas was trapped kicked it to an open Gant who drilled the jumper. With Aziz N'Diaye in foul trouble Gant once again was asked to play some minutes.

Gant finished with five points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. Gant has bailed the team out several times this year that the average fan won't noticed. He stretches the floor which allows Bryan-Amaning to dominate inside and Gant is also a good defender. Gant can set screens which helps three point shooters such as Scott Suggs, Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox.

- It was nice to see the Huskies feature Matthew Bryan-Amaning once again. In the Huskies four losses this year Bryan-Amaning is averaging just 9.5 points per game with just 4.8 rebounds per game. Safe to say when Bryan-Amaning has an off game the Huskies can't and won't win.

This game Bryan-Amaning was more agressive and making his shots. Bryan-Amaning made 10 of his 15 field goal attempts. Bryan-Amaning at times is the best big man in the conference. The pick and roll plays with him and Thomas is dangerous and ends up with an easy bucket for Bryan-Amaning. This game Bryan-Amaning had 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. He controlled the paint on the offensive end and defensive end.

For the year Bryan-Amaning is averaging 15.2 points per game, grabbing 7.7 rebounds a game while blocking 1.3 shots per game. Bryan-Amaning is shooting 58.3% from the field on the season. Like Thomas in Pac-10 play he has stepped up his game averaging 17.7 points per game, grabbing 9.8 rebounds per game while blocking 1.2 shots per game. In league play Bryan-Amaning is shooting 44 for 72(61.1%) from the field which is really really good. Even if the Pac-10 had a five man first team all-league Bryan-Amaning would be on the team along with Isaiah Thomas. Given that they have a 10 team first team I'd say Bryan-Amaning is a lock.

Just like previous bad losses Romar made a lineup change and it appears to have worked. With Thomas you need another taller shooter on the floor. Although Suggs had just three points he was able to stretch the floor which allowed Thomas to do damage in the paint. When Thomas is running the point and kicking it out to shooters or dumping it off for easy layups to Bryan-Amaning the Huskies are almost unstoppable to beat. The Huskies are now 5-1 in Pac-10 play and most importantly went 3-1 in the state of California. If the Huskies win on Thursday against Arizona at home they will have positioned themselves to win the Pac-10 early given that all four California teams have to go to their gym while Arizona has yet to play at the California schools. Should be a fun atmosphere this Thursday at Hec Ed where the Huskies have lost just three times the past two years. Just remember if Thomas and Bryan-Amaning play the way they are capable of the opponent doesn't matter as the Huskies will win.

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