Nov. 17, 2009
SEATTLE - Entering the post-Jon Brockman era of Husky basketball, some pundits questioned who would provide the leadership, scoring, rebounding, toughness -- every imaginable intangible -- that he provided the team for four seasons. Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter left little doubt to the answer of that question by leading Washington to a 3-0 record in the Athletes In Action Classic this weekend.
Scoring. The I-Q duo accounted for 140 of the team's 281 points in victories over Wright State (74-69), Belmont (96-78) and Portland State (111-55). Each had superstar moments throughout the three games and deservedly shared the tournament MVP honors.
Thomas set a career-high with 30 points in Friday's opener against Wright State, while Pondexter equaled a career-high 25 points on Saturday, which he eclipsed the next night with 29 points in a 56-point blowout of Portland State.
In the five-point victory over Wright State, Thomas and Pondexter were the Huskies only double-figure scorers, with Thomas accounting for 18 first half points when Washington built a 12-point halftime lead. The next night, Thomas had an efficient 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point range. Pondexter's 25 points came on 7-of-12 shooting and he was also a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line. Against Portland State, Pondexter nearly had a double-double at halftime after scoring 20 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. He finished with 29 and 13 on 11-of-12 from the field.
Rebounds. Not only did Thomas and Pondexter light the scoring column up, but a look in the rebounding column of the stat sheets showed the duo more than made up for the absence of Brockman. Pondexter was one rebound short of having a double-double in all three games. He finished with 9 on Friday, 11 on Saturday and 13 on Sunday. Surprisingly, Thomas cleaned up the glass efficiently too, grabbing 7 against Belmont and 6 against Portland State.
Toughness. Besides showing their toughness on the boards, the I-Q duo showed put that characteristic on display by going fearlessly at defenders and to the bucket at will. On Friday, Thomas was 14-of-18 from the line, the most makes and attempts since Todd MacCulloch reached those totals in separate games in 1998. MacCulloch stood 7-feet tall, Thomas is a mere 5-foot-9. Thomas followed up those free throw totals with a perfect 7-of-7 on Saturday.
Pondexter made it to the line 21 time over the weekend and sank his first 20 attempts before finally missing his 21st attempt when the PSU game was out of hand. On Saturday, he was a perfect 11-of-11 from the line, equaling the seventh most makes without a miss in team history.
Leadership. Pondexter is the obvious leader as the lone senior on the team. He backed up that stature this weekend by taking over the Portland State game after a slow start and demanding the ball in key situations. Thomas put his leadership skills on display also, not only on the court, but on the bench as well. He was standing and cheering on his teammates while relegated to the sidelines during stretchs. If you visit practice, you'll see that along with Pondexter, he is the most vocal player out there, shouting encouragement and direction.
While Husky fans won't soon forget the contributions that Jon Brockman made last season, it is clear that the fate of this season is in capable hands. Others are starting to take notice too, as Pondexter was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week on Monday.
"You look at how he is playing now, I can't imagine anyone playing as well as Quincy is right now," said Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar. "You're talking about a guy that is 6-foot-6 and averaging a double-double, shooting almost 70 percent from the field and shooting 95 percent from the foul line and defending and diving on the floor for loose balls -- that's pretty good."