Saturday, March 12, 2011

Huskies freshman come up big in 69-51 win over Oregon in Pac-10 semi's

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(22-10,11-7) held off the pesky Oregon Ducks(16-17,7-11) to win 69-51. The Huskies led basically the entire game over the Ducks but the Ducks just wouldn't go away. Unlike the loss in Eugene where the Huskies didn't play defense the Huskies played terrific defense today. Just like the win in Seattle freshman Terrence Ross who is from Portland, Oregon made his home state team pay. Ross made his second consecutive start had some highlight reel dunks on the Ducks as he scored 13 points. Fellow freshman C.J. Wilcox scored 14 points for the Huskies as the Huskies won in spite of their two first team all Pac-10 players Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning combining to shoot 4-20. The Huskies proved why they are a good team in the Pac-10 they can win in different ways. The Huskies will now look to defend their Pac-10 tournament championship tomorrow against the Arizona Wildcats. Isaiah Thomas for the second straight game recorded a double-double and is looking to win back to back tournament MVP's. The Huskies are finally playing well as a team at the right time of the year.

The Huskies had another sloppy first half but the Ducks had an even worse first half. The Huskies did receive great play from their bench as their bench scored 15 points in the first half. The Huskies played terrific defense on the Ducks holding the Ducks to 9-26(34.6%) shooting from the field and 2-10(20.0%) from three point range. The Huskies shot the ball all right shooting 10-24(41.7%) from the field but struggled from three point range making just 3-12(25.0%). The Huskies were 7-10(70.0%) from the foul line. The Huskies took a 30-21 halftime lead over the Ducks. Their first halftime lead since playing Seattle University over five games ago.

The Huskies did have some nice highlights as Thomas threw a perfect alley-oop to Ross for the dunk. The Huskies were led by Scott Suggs who scored eight points on three for three shooting including two three's. The Huskies also received good play from another reserve in Darnell Gant who scored six points on three for four shooting including grabbing six rebounds. Thomas had struggled in the first half with six points on just one for five shooting but did dish out five assists. The Huskies Matthew Bryan-Amaning had just two points and one rebound as he didn't even attempt a single field goal. The Huskies like yesterday received great play from Wilcox in the second half.

The Huskies came out in the second half determined to put the Ducks away. Wilcox began the half with a three pointer. The Huskies then stretched their lead to 44-30. The Ducks tighten up their defense and held the Huskies scoreless for over five minutes as they went on a 10-0 run to close within 44-40. Thomas would hit only his second shot of the game but it was huge. With two on the shot clock Thomas drilled a three pointer to give the Huskies a 47-40 lead. Then later in the game Wilcox provided the dagger as he drilled a three pointer and was fouled. After he hit the free throw the Huskies had a commanding 14 point lead. Then in the final minute as the Ducks were pressing, Ross crossed up his defender with a behind the back move then tomahawk jam on the Ducks. Ross who won the Oregon State player of the year as a sophomore at Jefferson High School is a reminder what the Ducks have been missing out on talent wise. When the horn sounded the Huskies had won 69-51 over the Ducks. For the fourth time since 2004 the Huskies will be in the Pac-10 championship game.

The Huskies won this game with defense. They held the Ducks to 18-56(32.1%) shooting from the field and just 4-24(16.7%) from three point range. The Huskies didn't exactly shoot lights out but shot well enough. The Huskies shot 24-59(40.7%) from the field, 7-22(31.8%) from three point range but made 14-18(77.8%) from the free throw line. The star of the game was Isaiah Thomas who played 38 minutes after playing 40 minutes the previous day. Thomas scored 10 points on 2-11 shooting but had 12 assists with three steals. The other stars were the freshman as C.J. Wilcox led the team in scoring with 14 points on four for nine shooting including three three pointers and making all three free throws. Terrence Ross scored 13 points on 6-12 shooting including a three pointer. Scott Suggs off the bench scored 10 points on three for six shooting including two three pointers. Darnell Gant scored eight points but pulled down a career high 10 rebounds with a block shot. Matthew Bryan-Amaning had a quiet game scoring just six points on two for nine shooting but had seven rebounds and two blocks. Justin Holiday added seven points on three for five shooting with six rebounds. Overall it was a good team effort for the Huskies.

Overall the Huskies accomplished their goal this week. The Huskies of course want to win the Pac-10 tournament for the second straight year and third time under Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies are playing some great ball and when Thomas is getting assists like he has been they are a tough team to beat. The Huskies are getting great games from their shooters recently with Wilcox, Ross and Suggs playing well. If the Huskies can get more production from their seniors they should be fine in the tournament. The Huskies prove once again when they want to they can be the premiere team in the conference. Most importantly the Huskies have proven to themselves they are still capable of playing good basketball. The Huskies will try and complete this great run with another Pac-10 championship. With the way this team is playing right now I'm not going to bet against them that is for sure. It is good to see the Huskies playing good basketball once again.


- The picture to your right is of Isaiah Thomas hugging former Sonics legend Gary Payton. Payton is at the game cheering on the Huskies although he is an Oregon State Beavers alum. Payton has stated he is going to work out Thomas this offseason in Las Vegas. Payton also was in the Huskies locker room after the game to give them congratulations.

Thomas is playing like a point guard once again which is good to see. Thomas although he scored just 10 points did dish out 12 assists. The Huskies are now 4-1 when he has 10+ assists in a game. The Huskies are 9-1 when Thomas has 8+ assists. The only loss was a one point loss at Arizona who the Huskies have a chance to seek revenge on. Thomas for this tournament has played in 78 minutes out of 80 possible minutes. So far he is averaging 15.5 points per game and 11.5 assists which means if the Huskies win the tournament he should be the conference tournament MVP.

- Teams don't win conference tournament championships without strong play from their role players. With Bryan-Amaning having an off game and Aziz N'Diaye appearing to be lost Darnell Gant provided the Huskies with strong inside play. Gant scored eight points and grabbed a career high 10 rebounds on the game. In the first half Gant had six points and six rebounds to set the tone.

When people complain about Gant they don't understand the whole story. Gant provides good athletic defense, has improved on his rebounding and can still knock down that open jumper. Gant has improved quite a bit since his freshman year. Today was proof of that as Gant pulled down 10 rebounds while scoring eight points. Gant also didn't attempt a single three pointer which he has fallen in love with. Today was a great game from Gant and the Huskies needed that in the first half.

- The picture to the right is of Thomas congratulating Wilcox after he drilled a three pointer to ice the game. Usually in big games the freshman freeze up and the older guys take over but this year the freshman are stepping up. Wilcox and Ross combined to score 27 points on 10-21(47.6%) from the field and hit four three pointers. Once again Wilcox struggled in the first half but came on in the second half hitting two three pointers. Ross came on strong in the second half scoring nine points as well.

For this tournament Ross is averaging 15.0 PPG while shooting 12-23(52.1%)from the field, has hit four three pointers. Ross has provided several great highlight reel dunks in this tournament already. Wilcox is also averaging 15.0 PPG while shooting 9-19(47.3%) from the field and is shooting 8-16(50.0%) from three point range so far. The freshman are certainly pulling their weight in this pac-10 tournament that is for sure.

- Lorenzo Romar is advancing to the championship game for the fourth time since 2004. Overall Romar is 12-5(.705) in the Pac-10 tournament. To say Romar has been very successful in this tournament would be an understatement. This is the second time in Romar's career the Huskies have reached the championship game in back to back years(2004 & 2005). This shows Romar typically has deep teams as in a three games in three days tournament you need some depth.

The Huskies are managing this run with only eight guys on scholarship and Thomas is your only point guard on scholarship. Romar took a risk by totally shuffling his starting lineup for this tournament. A team full of upperclassman and yet the Huskies find themselves starting two freshman. The Huskies have had 10 different guys start multiple games now. Romar I'll give him praise for making the gutsy decision to suspend Venoy Overton. Romar has the team playing their best ball in the Pac-10 tournament. I'll give Romar credit when his teams have their backs against the wall they almost always respond.

All in all, the Huskies are going back to the championship game. The Huskies are receiving great play so far from Isaiah Thomas, Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox. The Huskies will need their seniors like Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday to step up to defeat the Arizona Wildcats. Romar is 2-1 all-time in the championship game including a win over the Arizona Wildcats in 2005. The Huskies have taken care of two Northwest foes who started their decline in the middle of the season. Now the Huskies get a chance to seek some revenge on the Wildcats. The Huskies are 7-6 against the Wildcats in their last 13 games showing this is a tight series. Should be a fun Pac-10 championship game tomorrow with two of the elite teams in the conference over the past couple of seasons. The Huskies have always had a rivalry with the Arizona Wildcats this decade much like the football team did with the USC Trojans in the 1980's and 90's. Everyone expected these two teams to meet in the championship just nobody expected the path the Huskies would have had to take to ge there is all. With Thomas playing good basketball the Huskies are in good shape. Most importantly the confidence is back at Montlake which is key for the NCAA tournament next week.

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