Feb. 6, 2010
SEATTLE (AP) - Isaiah Thomas laughed while making no-look passes that led to easy dunks. Washington's diminutive dynamo constantly jumped up and down as if on a pogo stick and crashed into teammates' chests following made baskets, good defensive plays - even mistakes.
"Yeah, just having fun out there," Thomas said. "We found a little thing we do, something new now."
Including win consistently.
Thomas responded from being benched the game before to score 17 points, Quincy Pondexter added 17 and the revived Huskies rolled early and then cruised to a 79-56 victory over Arizona State on Saturday night.
Justin Holiday had seven points, 10 rebounds and another game-changing night of defense as Washington (16-7, 6-5 Pac-10) completed a weekend blowout of both Arizona schools that had routed the Huskies in the desert last month.
The defending conference champions were at the bottom of the conference two weeks ago. Now they and the Sun Devils (16-8, 6-5) are in a five-way tie for second place in the scrambled conference, one game behind California. Seven games remain in the league's regular season.
"We have a lot of momentum. We know what's at stake. We have a chance to be right at the top," Pondexter said. "We're very fortunate. Usually, you lose a couple games in the Pac-10 and it's over.
"We want to redeem ourselves."
Redemption must continue Thursday night at Cal. Washington is 0-6 on the road this season.
"We just have to bring the same energy," Thomas said of leaving home, where the Huskies are 34-2 since the start of last season. "When we have our own energy, we play so good. We'll see where it takes us."
Freshman Demetrius Walker scored 14 points off the bench for the Sun Devils, who looked lethargic while losing for the third time in five games.
Rihards Kuksiks had just eight points, after scorching Washington for a career high-tying 27 in January. And senior floor leader Derek Glasser was in danger of going scoreless for the first time since his sophomore season until he made his only basket, a 3-pointer, with 6½ minutes left. That ended the Washington student section's mocking chants of "Der-ek!" with hands cupped in the shape of a zero.
The Huskies on the floor had even more fun.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar benched Thomas at times in Thursday's win over Arizona for not leading the offense efficiently. Unfazed, last season's Pac-10 freshman of the year ignited a 25-6 run to begin Saturday's game as the Huskies avenged a 17-point loss in Tempe last month.
The Sun Devils were stagnant and unresponsive. That made the game's opening moments decisive.
Arizona State didn't make a field goal in the first 5 minutes, then fell behind by 10 after consecutive 3-pointers by Washington's Elston Turner and Scott Suggs. Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek called three time-outs in the first 11½ minutes to try to slow the Huskies.
"Washington really took it to us," a glum Sendek said. "The Washington guards were very dominant. ... They just soundly beat us."
An 11-0 Washington run ended with Thomas forcing in a runner on a 2-on-4 break that was ill-advised but, like everything else Huskies Saturday, successful. That put Washington up 25-6.
At that point, Ty Abbott, ASU's leading scorer in conference play, had not scored. And Kuksiks had as many fouls (two) as points. The junior from Latvia was hounded all night by Holiday.
The Huskies' long-armed defensive ace missed last month's meeting because of academic technicalities but returned this weekend to shut down both shooters who had doomed Washington in the desert last month.
Thursday night, Holiday held Arizona's Jemelle Horne to two points - 20 fewer than Horne had when the Wildcats blew out the Holiday-less Huskies in January.
"I do what I do every game. Just come out and stop whoever's in front of me," the 6-foot-6 junior said. "I take pride in it. My teammates take pride in it."
Romar just marveled.
"He was all over the place," the coach said.
The Sun Devils missed 11 of their first 13 shots and finished their dreadful half with 10 turnovers and only nine made baskets. They trailed 42-25 at the break.
Thomas had more fun in the second half. He fired a no-look pass underneath to Matthew Bryan-Amaning that Thomas was so fond of, he turned his back to the play and smiled knowing Bryan-Amaning was about to unleash a thunderous, two-handed dunk to keep Washington up by 22.
Bryan-Amaning finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
"We're playing our best basketball of the year right now, consistent basketball," Romar said. "We'll see how good it is and how consistent it is when we get on the road."