Jan. 8, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - All Lorenzo Romar could do was just shake his head.
His Huskies lose smooth starter Abdul Gaddy, the Pac-10's most efficient point guard to a season-ending knee injury this week - then days later dismantle Oregon by 18 and Oregon State by 31.
Saturday afternoon's 103-72 blow past the Beavers, with Matthew Bryan-Amaning dunking and dominating the lane plus Isaiah Thomas swishing and dishing, has these rolling Huskies 4-0 in the Pac-10 for the first time since 1984.
"I mean, that's a long time," Romar said with a grin. He was a point guard with the Milwaukee Bucks and Marv Harshman was still coaching Huskies Detlef Schrempf, Paul Fortier and Christian Welp to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 back then.
Bryan-Amaning scored 10 of his 24 points in a wild, eight-minute sprint after Saturday's halftime. That was when 23rd-ranked Washington almost instantaneously turned a nine-point deficit into a 17-point lead, then kept soaring over stunned Oregon State at rocking Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Bryan-Amaning also tied his career high with 15 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Thomas had 19 points and eight assists as the Huskies (12-3) took early command of the conference they are favored to win this season.
"We're doing really well with humility, just kind of being humble about it," Bryan-Amaning said, knowing UW's next test comes Thursday night at Stanford. "We're not letting it get to our heads. We're still fighting for respect across the country. That's what's keeping the fire lit for us."
It's raging right now.
The Huskies, who also got 14, late points from freshman Terrence Ross, shocked the Beavers (7-8, 2-2) with 75 points over the final 23 minutes. That was after Oregon State, which lost by 14 at Washington State on Thursday, had taken a 37-28 lead with 3 minutes left in the opening half.
"That second half was close to - with the exception of the Virginia game - close to the best we've played all season," Romar said. "That had everything to do with our defense."
Uncomfortable patience in halfcourt offense against Oregon State's zones turned into a far more comfortable track meet for the Huskies during a 34-10 run through the first 7 minutes after halftime. The Huskies kept getting hands in passing lanes, leaping for some of their season-high 10 blocked shots and racing down court. The Beavers were left gasping in their dust.
"You have to defend these guys and play tough the entire game, or a tie game will turn into a blowout in five minutes," impressed Beavers coach Craig Robinson said. The Huskies made 12 of their first 21 shots in the second half, most of them created off the pell-mell rushes.
Guards Thomas and Venoy Overton, the senior making his second consecutive start since Gaddy tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in practice on Tuesday, were particularly exquisite. Thomas and Gaddy combined for 15 of Washington's 20 assists, with just three turnovers while playing 58 combined minutes.
"Venoy and Isaiah were ridiculous today," said Bryan-Amaning, the recipient of most of their work.
Thomas, the 5-foot-9 junior who is on midseason watch lists to be the nation's player of the year, has 56 points, 26 assists -- and just five turnovers -- over the last three games.
"Isaiah is doing a ridiculous job ... the way he is passing the ball," Bryan-Amaning said, finding a new word of the day for his former teammate at South Kent prep school in Connecticut. "The knock on him is always that he wants to score all the time. But wherever I've been around him, he's never been like that. He's showing everybody that he can play the point - and that his vision is as good as his scoring."
The sudden, second-half track meet was the polar opposite of the early going. The Dawgs trailed 37-28 with 3 minutes left in the first half. They were getting stymied offensively, settling for long 3-pointers over Oregon State's zone defense. UW missed 11 of its first 14 from deep.
But late in the period, the Huskies began using the break off their defense to get open shots closer to the rim. And the game changed.
Thomas made consecutive jumpers before Overton rushed down against the clock and seemingly the entire Oregon State team. His running shot off glass and rim from about 8 feet went in at the buzzer, sending the home crowd into its loudest frenzy of the half. Washington led 40-39 at the break, and still hasn't trailed at halftime this season.
"We were down the whole first half. And for him to go down, in the middle of about 10 dudes, and make that, it was a momentum changer," Thomas said. "We brought it into the second half." The Beavers, who had controlled the first 20 minutes, had to wonder what hit them after halftime.
Bryan-Amaning took a whip pass from Thomas in the lane and dunked for his 21st and 22nd points with just under 6 minutes left, then raced to the other end to swat a Beavers shot. Thomas took the loose ball the other way for his eighth assist, a pass that Darnell Gant turned into a baseline basket.
Gant, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds, then joined the block party at the other end. Gant gave the pressing, "Raise the Roof" signal to the roaring crowd -- just like Thomas did Thursday night against Oregon, when he said he was bringing back "a movement."
The roaring Dawg Pack section mimicked Gant's arms push, and another party was on at Hec Ed.
Consider the roof raised.
That's not all the fans were hollering over. Huge roars came 3 minutes into the second half from the concourse. Fans there saw on TVs inside UW's golf center that the Seahawks had taken a 41-30 lead over New Orleans en route to a stunning upset in the NFL playoffs downtown.
"How about the Seahawks!" Romar said immediately after the game.
Someone answered, "How about the Huskies!"
"Yeah," Romar deadpanned, "they did all right, too."