Jan. 16, 2010
SEATTLE (AP) - Isaiah Thomas pumped his fist, shouting into the din of the roaring Washington crowd and strutted as he went back up the floor.
This wasn't after another one of Thomas' circus shots in the lane against someone a foot taller. This display of emotion came after getting a five-second call on the defensive end.
Taking their cue from Thomas, the Huskies stymied California with aggressive, physical defense, and got 25 points from Quincy Pondexter in an 84-69 win over the Golden Bears on Saturday that put Washington back in the Pac-10 race.
Thanks to Husky hoops fans who contributed to World Vision collecting more than $13,000 at today's game against Cal!
And they have their defense to thank for the turnaround.
"We did a really good job on our defensive pressure this entire weekend," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "I think maybe that was one of the biggest improvements that we've made."
Pondexter scored 21 of his 25 in the first half when Washington put this one out of reach. Thomas added 20, but his most important contribution on this afternoon came in his defensive matchup against Cal leading scorer Jerome Randle.
After scoring a career-best 39 points on Thursday against Washington State, Randle was held to just five on Saturday. The Huskies' student section chanted "Randle, Randle" and held their hands to form a zero until Randle finally scored with 12:12 remaining. They rewarded the runner in the lane with mock applause for Randle, but the Bears still trailed by 22. Washington's biggest lead was 29 in the second half.
Randle finished with more turnovers - eight - than points, with seven coming in the first half.
Patrick Christopher led California (11-6, 3-2 Pac-10) with 28 points, but was the only one of Cal's top four scorers to reach double figures.
Randle sat glumly on the bench in the final minutes with a towel flung over his shoulders. He said afterward that a twisted right knee suffered in the closing seconds against Washington State was bothering him, but wasn't an excuse for his poor effort.
"I wasn't fast like I was any other time. I wanted to try and play through it, but (Washington) played great," Randle said. "I tip my hat to them. They came out ready to play."
After dropping three straight to Oregon, Arizona State and Arizona, the Huskies (12-5, 3-3) looked lost and without an identity. They appeared to rediscover themselves by blowing out the Bay Area schools.
"Maybe it took that to open our eyes," Romar said.
Washington forced 22 California turnovers, making up for the 50 times the Huskies sent Cal to the free-throw line. But the fouls served their purpose, displaying the Huskies' aggressive, physical tone on defense, something missing in the previous weeks.
Thomas was a pinball, diving all over the floor, strutting with a limp at times after taking another bump to his already small frame. He was largely responsible for Randle's horrid day.
Thomas followed Randle's every step and often denied him an opportunity to get a pass. Known mostly for his offense, Thomas was as pumped for the five-second call as when his home-run pass found Pondexter for a two-handed dunk in the first half.
"Isaiah was so focused and just didn't give him a lot of looks," Romar said. "When we go back to Cal he might explode for 40. ... I just thought Isaiah had a great amount of concentration and I just think he deserves a lot of credit for that."
The aggressive defense kept Cal's offense from ever getting started. Christopher scored 17 in the first half, but no other Bears player had more than four. Cal coach Mike Montgomery was regularly in the ear of the officials and glared at them as he left the floor at halftime even though the Bears shot 29 free throws in the first half.
"I think more than physically, mentally we weren't ready to deal with the things we had to deal with there to hang and stay in the game," Montgomery said.