Friday, March 11, 2011

Huskies overcome big game from Thompson to win 89-87 over Cougars!

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(21-10,11-7) had a huge come from behind victory over their cross state rivals Washington State Cougars(19-12,9-9) 89-87 at the 2011 Pac-10 tournament. The Huskies are the defending tournament champions and just like last year they overcame a double digit deficit to win their first round game. The Huskies unlike last year when they defeated Oregon State Beavers had to win in spite of Klay Thompson's record setting performance. Thompson hit a Pac-10 tournament record eight three pointers while scoring a tournament record 43 points. The Cougars were feeling confident early as they had beaten the Huskies earlier in the year in Pullman and in Seattle. The Huskies overcame all that by having big games from their stars. They were led by last years Pac-10 tournament MVP Isaiah Thomas who scored 21 points while dishing out 11 assists. The Huskies were also helped by both freshman C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross. The Huskies also with this win most likely wrapped up their place in the 2011 NCAA tournament. As for the Cougars they are most likely headed to the NIT for the second time in three years.

The Huskies got off to a slow start once again. Just like the previous two meetings the Huskies found themselves trailing at halftime. The Huskies in fact have trailed in their last five Pac-10 games. The Huskies were down by early 20-9 but battled back to within 20-17. Then the Cougars went on a 10-0 run to stretch the lead to 30-17. The Huskies battled back to pull within 40-32 at halftime as Klay Thompson was proving to be too much for the Huskies. Thompson led all scorers with 18 points on 6-14 shooting including four three pointers. The Cougars shot 14-34(41.2%) from the field but just 4-15(26.7%) from three pointers. The Cougars did outrebound the Huskies 18-15. The Huskies were struggling offensively shooting 12-31(38.7%) from the field, 5-15(33.3%) from three point range. The Huskies were saved by Terrence Ross who was making his first career start. Ross scored 13 points on five for eight shooting including three three pointers.

Other notable Huskies in the first half were Matthew Bryan-Amaning who had struggled the previous two games against the Cougars. Bryan-Amaning overcame two early fouls to score eight points on three for five shooting while grabbing four rebounds. Isaiah Thomas scored five points on two for six shooting including a three pointer. Thomas did dish out six assists in the first half. Justin Holiday continued this struggles scoring just three points on one for four shooting but did pull down six rebounds. The Huskies bench was held scoreless which was pretty thin. The Huskies would respond in the second half to make the second half a barn burner.

In the second half the Huskies came out with a 10-0 to take their first second half lead of the year on the Cougars 42-40. Then after that it was was the Huskies five starters trading punches with Thompson who was a one man show in the second half for the Cougars. A key sequence took place with the Huskies up 73-67. After a Cougars three pointer, Thompson hit a three to tie up the score at 73-73. Then the Huskies freshman C.J. Wilcox drilled back to back three pointers to give the Huskies a 79-73 lead. At the end of the game with the Huskies lead 88-85 with less than 10 seconds to go Lorenzo Romar finally did the smart thing. He had the Huskies foul Reggie Moore with under five seconds left. Moore then missed the front end of the one and one but Thompson got the rebound to score his final points of the night cutting the lead to 88-87. The Cougars headcoach Ken Bone then called a timeout but the Cougars had none. Wilcox made one of two free throw's. With 0.4 seconds left the Huskies threw the ball at midcourt and hung on to an important 89-87 win to open up this tournament. Thompson finished with 43 points on 15-29 shooting and 8-14 from three point range. In the second half Thompson was 9-15 shooting and 4-6 from three pointers to score 25 points. That wasn't enough for the Cougars though as they fell to the Huskies.

The Huskies in the second half shot lights out. In the second half the Huskies shot 22-36(61.1%) from the field, 6-13(46.1%) from three point range and even made seven of nine free throws. The Huskies were led by Thomas who scored 21 points on 8-13 shooting including three for five from three point range. Thomas played every single second of this game while dishing out 11 assists and recording three steals. He looked like the first half version of Thomas. The Huskies then had 17 points from freshman Terrence Ross who didn't even play the last game. Ross score 17 points on 6-11 shooting including three three pointers. C.J. Wilcox was also huge scoring 16 points on 5-10 shooting including 5-9 from three point range. Wilcox caught fire in the second half drilling four three pointers. Matthew Bryan-Amaning exorcised his Cougar demons by scoring 16 points on 7-11 shooting while grabbing seven rebounds. Then Justin Holiday finally came on with scrappy putbacks scoring 12 points on 5-13 shooting but grabbing a game high 10 rebounds. The five Huskies starters combined to score 82 points on 31-58(53.4%) shooting from the field. Thomas and the two freshman combined to shoot 11-21(52.3%) from three point range.

Overall this was a good win for the Huskies. The Huskies overcame a big deficit and beat an opponent who historically recently has given them problems. The Huskies also needed this win for confidence as they haven't had a good win in a while. The UCLA game was good for Wilcox but nobody else. While this felt like a team win as five Huskies score in double figures. Six Huskies played more than 20 minutes as well. The Huskies most likely stamped their ticket to the dance next week. Now the Huskies have a chance to get some revenge on the Oregon Ducks who were a major part of the Huskies second half unraveling a bit. The Huskies can go on a run if Thomas plays like he did today. As I've documented before the team goes where Thomas takes them. Well for today Thomas took them far and in his Husky career the Huskies are now 5-1 in the Pac-10 tournament. This marks the first time in Lorenzo Romar's career he has won at least one Pac-10 tournament game in three consecutive seasons. The Huskies overcame a great performance by Thompson and now will advance in this Pac-10 tournament. Most importantly next week they'll be playing in the NCAA tournament.


- Thomas was money today when the Huskies need him. Just like when Abdul Gaddy went down Thomas stepped his game up with Venoy Overton being suspended. Thomas hit some big three point shots to break out of his horrific 6-29 three point shooting slump that he was in. Thomas also dished out 11 assists.

When Thomas is dishing out assists the main guy to benefit is Bryan-Amaning who catches the ball and dunks the ball. That is why when Thomas has bad games the Huskies lose because the opponent by shutting down Thomas is taking away two first team all pac-10 players. Thomas in the second half was six for seven shooting with 16 points and five assists. Thomas won the tournament MVP last year and since Thompson is eliminated is on the short list of players who can win it this year.

- The freshman grew up today that is for sure. At the start of the year the Huskies were so deep and returned seven guys I wondered if these freshman would even make an impact. I was wrong as they have made an impact but there has been some bumps on the road. Wilcox in the middle of the season was a no show while recently as of last week Ross played just four minutes.

Today both guys starting(first time two true freshman have started since 2007) played great. First let's start with Ross who had played just four minutes the previous week. Ross wasn't rusty at all scoring 13 of his 17 points in the first half including three three pointers. He also made some terrific athletic moves on the baseline.

As for Wilcox he scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half hitting four three pointers. Wilcox made first team all freshman team while Ross was second team all freshman team. The Huskies will have a bright future with these two. For the game these two freshman combined to score 33 points on 11-21 shooting from the field and 8-16 from three point range. The freshman took turns carrying the Huskies showing that the present and future is still bright at Montlake.

- It was nice to see Matthew Bryan-Amaning break out with a good shooting performance. Partly because of Thomas penetration Bryan-Amaning was allowed to have easy looks but recently he has been missing those. In the last three games Bryan-Amaning has shot 11-33(33.3%) from the field and against the Cougars 4-19(21.1%) from the field.

Well today was a different story as Bryan-Amaning shot 7-11(63.6%) from the field. Bryan-Amaning has had better games but scoring 16 points while shooting 7-11 was big for him to regain his confidence. Bryan-Amaning recently won the most improved player award and was awarded with making first team all pac-10. He is also the only post player on the Huskies roster as Aziz N'Diaye continues to struggle. The Huskies will need more performances like this from Bryan-Amaning. Hopefully this was just the start of good things to come.

- What feels like a decade ago there was once a time when the Huskies owned Klay Thompson. Those days are of course over. Thompson prior to this year was 0-4 against the Huskies and scored just 7.3 points per game while shooting 10-47(21.2%) from the field. As Thompson is showing to the Huskies and NBA scouts he has improved greatly on offense.

After dropping a Pac-10 tournament record 43 points on the Huskies Thompson on the year against the Huskies is averaging 31.3 points per game. He is also shooting 29-60(48.3%) from the field while making 14-27(51.9%) from three point range. To say Thompson has killed the Huskies this year would be an understatement. Luckily for the Huskies by Thompson going off in Los Angeles good chance he turns pro after this year. Thompson showed he is a great scorer. On the year Thompson is averaging 22.1 points per game while shooting 44.7% from the field and 42.3% from three point range. He is also making an average of three three pointers a game so there is some weight to that. Should be interesting how Cougars fans will remember Thompson because if he leaves he will have never played in an NCAA tournament game.

- Last night on facebook and twitter in the middle of talking crap about each other's schools it suddenly stopped. That is when Huskies and Cougars fans realized there is more to life than sports. If you haven't heard by now last night Japan was hit by a bad tsunami. The images on CNN were just horrible and that stopped all sports talk.

To makes matters even worse this is spreading to Hawaii and even the Oregon coast. To my fans in Japan who are reading this, fans in Hawaii and of course those close to home my thoughts and prayers are with you guys. I hope we all realize sports is just entertainment. There are folks in Japan right now who would love to trade places with us and "suffer" with our sports teams ASAP. Keep that in mind tonight as the Huskies take on the Ducks.

- This is a hard transition after my last observation but I'll try it anyways. When the team loses I'm often seen getting on Lorenzo Romar well the team won today. I will give credit where credit is due and today Romar deserves some credit. First he didn't let the team panic when they trailed by 13 points and eight points at halftime. I also will give Romar credit because he showed he learned from previous mistakes.

Take the starting lineup for an example. Romar thought outside the box today by starting Ross(who Romar didn't even play last game) over Aziz N'Diaye. The Cougars start basically one big guy and the rest are forwards or guards. So why start N'Diaye to get in the way? Thankfully Romar did that as the Huskies trailed by eight but Ross had 13 points so it could have been a lot worse.

Romar also at the end of the game doesn't like to foul up three with less than 10 seconds to go in the game. Today he did just that and that won the Huskies the game. By doing that he took away the chance Thompson hits another miracle three(with how he was shooting he probably hits it too) instead he made the Cougars perform under pressure. The Cougars would have to make the first free throw, miss the second free throw, get the rebound and put the ball in. Sounds a lot harder than Thompson hitting a three right? Exactly. Reggie Moore missed the first free throw and although Thompson scored on the putback it didn't matter. Those key coaching decisions by Romar won the game for the Huskies. I will gladly give him credit for when he is coaching like that.

All in all, this was a great win for the Huskies. The Huskies needed some much needed confidence. The Huskies now can't get complicent they still need to impress the tournament committee to get a good draw. The Huskies will be favored to beat the 7th seeded Oregon Ducks tonight. The Huskies have a chance to go back to the Pac-10 championship game with a win over the Ducks. If Thomas and Bryan-Amaning played like they did today the Huskies should have no problems advancing deep. The Huskies unlike last year have a thin bench due to injuries and suspensions. The Huskies will need more than just seven bench points if they expect to keep advancing. I'm glad the Huskies pulled this much needed win out for their mental sakes going forward. It was nice to see the freshman step up in a big time moment. It was especially nice to see two first team all pac-10 guys play well today. Thomas was the MVP of last year's tournament and was the MVP for the Huskies today. Now the Huskies must turn around 24 hours later to try and grab another victory. Just remember guys to enjoy the game no matter the outcome as you saw on CNN last night it could be a lot worst.

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