Dec. 31, 2010
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
LOS ANGELES - Matthew Bryan-Amaning was soaring and screaming toward a throng of cheering Huskies fans. Isaiah Thomas was standing in the middle of Pauley Pavilion waving goodbye to Bruins people who were leaving quickly with their heads bowed.
More reasons why Huskies from Seattle to Senegal have one New Year's request: Don't let this wondrous week of UW sports end!
Bryan-Amaning had 21 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, and the running Dawgs took a big lead in the second half, withstood another day of foul trouble plus a UCLA rally, then beat the Bruins 74-63 on Friday afternoon to cap a purple-and-gold week for the ages in Southern California.
Hours after the dominating Holiday Bowl win for Huskies football over Nebraska in San Diego, hundreds of purple phanatics made the two-hour drive north. They spent the afternoon chanting "Let's Go Huskies!" from the top and end sections, sounds almost never heard for an opponent inside this storied place.
"Our fans were unbelievable today, and at USC (in UW's gritty overtime win Wednesday night)," Huskies coach and Los Angeles-area native Lorenzo Romar said inside a building in which he was an NCAA champion assistant in the 1990s. "We've never had that kind of support in L.A. It was tremendous."
How awesome have these last three days been down here?
The football team, a two-touchdown underdog to Nebraska, stormed to its first bowl victory since 2001. A lobby party in San Diego raged past 2 a.m. in the team hotel, a celebration of UW's dramatic turnaround from being 0-12 two years ago.
Hours later up the freeway, Huskies hoops completed just its third sweep ever of the L.A. schools in Los Angeles, after 2006 and 1987. It was just UW's fourth win in 48 games all-time in Pauley Pavilion, which will get a much-needed renovation next year.
Washington, which next hosts Oregon on Thursday night, is 2-0 to start conference play for just the second time in six seasons. And the Huskies are already finished with what they think is the Pac-10's toughest road trip.
"It's absolutely great - especially with the football team winning, we had to win this game," said a grinning Thomas, who had 17 points and tied his career best with nine assists for Washington (10-3, 2-0 Pac-10). "We had to win it for them."
Thomas scored four quick points, then drove down the lane, drew UCLA defenders and set up Darnell Gant for a wide open 3. Gant swished it from the wing to put the Huskies up 68-59 with 3:26 left. Fans of the Bruins (9-5, 1-1) began leaving after that, duplicating the early exit Nebraska's no-longer-faithful made out of the Holiday Bowl the previous night.
More in baby blue left when Joshua Smith, the huge freshman center from Kentwood High School in suburban Seattle, fouled out with 2:34 remaining and the Huskies ahead 68-61. Smith had nine points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies led by seven at halftime, behind nine points from Thomas. They then jumped on a 10-0 run after the break, highlighted by offensive rebounding and running. Bryan-Amaning grabbed a defensive rebound and fired a long outlet pass to Justin Holiday. Holiday, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, made a smooth pass back to the sprinting, trailing Bryan-Amaning. The 6-9 senior beat the Bruins down the floor, then soared for that emphatic dunk and rousing yell toward Huskies fans sitting behind the basket.
It put Washington up 46-35 and forced UCLA into a time out.
"He said he thought about passing to Isaiah," Bryan-Amaning said of Holiday. "I said, 'C'mon! You can't pass to Isaiah when you have me there running like that!"
The Huskies kept running through Aziz N'Diaye's put back that made it 52-35. The 7-footer from Senegal had six points and six rebounds before he fouled out minutes before Smith did.
Bryan-Amaning thought a key to the game was N'Diaye's spirited banging down low with the 305-pound Smith, who outweighs N'Diaye by 45 pounds and was throwing that weight around like a defensive tackle. But UW's sophomore junior-college transfer held his own against Smith - and spared Bryan-Amaning the trouble, freeing MBA to soar and score instead, as he said, "of banging against a 300-pound dude for 29 minutes."
"(Smith) tries to go through everybody," Bryan-Amaning said.
It's exactly the kind of opponent Romar had in mind when he recruited N'Diaye from the College of Southern Idaho.
Two days after a foul-a-thon that almost doomed them at USC, the Huskies piled up fouls to allow UCLA back within 55-51 with 9:36 left on two free throws by Reeves Nelson. Those were the 28th and 29th free throws for the Bruins. Washington had shot seven at that point.
UCLA finished 25 of 36 from the foul line. Washington was 12 for 15. But again, the Huskies overcame the foul trouble and everything else to seize the early conference lead with their sixth straight road victory in the Pac-10.
"We knew their team would make one last run," Thomas said. "I'm proud of my teammates that we weren't yelling at each other. We stuck together.
"We've got talent."
Thomas wanted to make sure the Bruins and their fans realized that following his first career win at Pauley. Either that, or he was waving Happy New Year to the many Huskies fans who were roaring as the final buzzer sounded.
"No, it was at the UCLA fans," Thomas said, nodding his head smugly.
A characteristically brash cap to a wondrous week for Washington in So Cal.