Dec. 18, 2010
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Back home. Back to normal.
Junior Scott Suggs came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points, Isaiah Thomas added 12 points and five assists, and the Huskies literally rebounded from a loss last weekend at Texas A&M to rout San Francisco 80-52 on Saturday.
Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy each had seven of the team's 21 assists - against a season-low four turnovers -- in yet another runaway at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Washington (7-3) is 6-0 and winning by an average of 31 points against overmatched opponents at home this season.
Saturday's story was a return to rebounding. The Dawgs ruled the offensive boards against a USF team that had a 6-foot-10 starter and two others at 6-8. Washington had 40 rebounds in all, its most since the season opener five weeks ago. The Huskies emphasized grabbing missed shots all week in practice, in film sessions -- and in their starting lineup.
Coach Lorenzo Romar changed the starters as promised, pairing recent reserve Matthew Bryan- Amaning with 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye and his prodigious rebounding. Their combined 13 feet, nine inches is in the lineup because UW has been outrebounded in all three of their losses this season, most recently last weekend at A&M.
Washington had even been outrebounded while beating Eastern Washington. To take the point even further, tiny Saint Martin's University had more rebounds than the Huskies in an exhibition.
"We can talk all we want about defense and all that, but if we don't rebound the ball we can't be as good as we want to be," Romar said of his defending Pac-10 tournament champions and favorites to win the conference this season.
The coach said N'Diaye and Bryan-Amaning will again start together Wednesday at home against Nevada, if not when Pac-10 play begins in two weeks.
"We just had to play guys that rebounded better. Aziz is our best rebounder, so he got more minutes tonight, and his presence allowed everyone else to go get boards," Romar said. "When you have a guy in there trying to rebound like that, I think it rubbed off on some other guys. Venoy Overton gets six rebounds, Scott Suggs gets five rebounds. So it helped tonight."
Thomas, the team's leading scorer who lit up the Dons for 10 points in the first 3 minutes of the second half, loves the new lineup.
"It changes a lot," the junior guard said. "We need to rebound - that's the whole point. I mean, they are 6-9 and 7 feet.
"We took a step forward today in rebounding."
Asked if he minded having another big body clogging the lane inside where he loves to drive, Thomas praised the two big men for their court spacing then added with a smile, "As long as one of them gets out of my way, I'm good."
The highlight for San Francisco (4-6) was taking a 4-2 lead 1:55 into the game. The Dons never led again, though they did successfully slow the Huskies' usual home pace. They held Washington far below its average of 104 points per home game entering Saturday.
Yet even that was a positive. Romar liked the patience his team showed against the slower Dons. That was also a product of practice. The Huskies spent the week working the shot clock down on its offensive possessions, to stimulate patience and sharing the ball in the halfcourt.
N'Diaye, the sophomore junior-college transfer from Senegal and the College of Southern Idaho, entered Saturday with a better rate of rebounds - one every 2 ½ minutes - than UW all-time leading board master Jon Brockman had in his college career.
Presto! With N'Diaye and Bryan-Amaning starting, 10 of Washington's first 20 rebounds against San Francisco were on the offensive end. Bryan-Amaning had four of those offensive boards early.
"We were more aggressive," N'Diaye said. "It made my job easier."
Bryan-Amaning finished with 10 points and a game-high nine rebounds overall.
"That's all I'm pretty much concentrating on," the senior said of rebounding.
The Huskies had six offensive rebounds in the first 8 minutes. But poor Huskies shooting - 30 percent - kept the game basically even until midway through the half. Then Suggs entered and immediately hit Washington's first two 3-pointers, after nine misses. That pushed the lead to seven.
Coupled with shutdown defense in the halfcourt - the Dons often forced wild shots as the shot-clock was expiring - the Huskies were on their way to another blowout win at Hec Ed.
The lead grew to 18 with 2:04 left in the half. The best score of the spurt was Thomas sprinting in the open floor, dribbling behind his back and then leaping to throw a double-clutch pass for a layup by Gaddy.
The Dawg Pack student section, somewhat depleted by Friday's start of their holiday break, chanted approvingly to the member of national player-of-the-year watch lists, "That was pretty!"
UW's first, true home test may not come until Jan. 20, when Arizona visits. Until then, the Huskies host Nevada (2-8) Wednesday, then Oregon and Oregon State in early January. Four of their first six Pac-10 games are on the road, beginning on Dec. 29 at USC.
"No disrespect to any other team, but we want to get it really rolling," Thomas said. "I'm really ready for it. It's like a brand-new season when the Pac-10 stats.
"I'm just practicing to get mentally right for USC."