10-Pac: Reviewing the Huskies' 79-62 victory over Arizona State
Posted by Jerry Brewer
Ten observations while watching Washington end its three-game road losing streak:
1. Matthew Bryan-Amaning owns the soft Sun Devils. MBA had a monster game: 22 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, three assists. In two games against Arizona State this season, he averaged 26 points and 10.5 rebounds. Yes, it's a total mismatch seeing Bryan-Amaning pitted against Arizona State's athletically-challenged big men. MBA has shown this year that he can dominate when the matchup is in his favor. Which is good because he's the Huskies' only offensive option in the post.
2. The Huskies probably don't win without C.J. Wilcox. Wilcox was so brilliant that I dedicated an entire column to his play. His line: 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks. Not bad for a player who hit a seemingly unbreakable wall at the start of the Pac-10 schedule.
It's good to see Wilcox shooting it well again, but he is also showing other dimensions to his game. His passing has improved. He did a great job chasing down rebounds and rotating over on defense to block shots. One of the first times Wilcox touched the ball on Thursday, he drove to the basket for an easy score. In the second half, he caught a highlight-reel lob pass from Isaiah Thomas and dropped it in the bucket. On that play, Thomas spun to avoid a defender and then threw the ball up to Wilcox for the lay-in.
3. The Huskies are fortunate their poor start didn't bury them. They were down 15-7 early. They committed seven team fouls in the game's first five minutes. They looked hesitant on offense when the game began.
That can't happen Saturday against Arizona.
4. Scott Suggs' knee injury is worrisome. Romar said Suggs is believed to have a left MCL sprain, but the team will know better on Friday. He doesn't expect to see Suggs on Saturday. Most MCL sprains cause a player to miss at least two weeks. Often, the absence is longer.
Suggs, who leads the Huskies with a 45-percent three-point percentage, has established himself as a solid starter since Abdul Gaddy went down with a torn ACL. So the Huskies will have to go to Plan C now at the guard spot opposite Thomas.
Fortunately, they are loaded with options at shooting guard.
5. Venoy Overton should start against Arizona on Saturday. Overton is starting to play like a senior. He had 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the Sun Devils. He played 30 minutes, and he played all of them with a hard edge. He's back to being a pest. And his energy is contagious.
So, he should edge Wilcox for the starting nod on Saturday. You have to go with a senior over a redshirt freshman in a game this big.
6. The Washington defense finally holds an opponent to a low shooting percentage. After four subpar defensive efforts, the Huskies went back to their defensive basics last week. The results were better, but they still allowed both Cal and Stanford to shoot nearly 50 percent. They had been holding teams to under than 42 percent until these recent struggles.
On Thursday, though, they showed their greatest signs of defensive life yet. They held the Sun Devils to 39.4 percent shooting.
7. The Isaiah Thomas/Ty Abbott double technical sequence was bizarre. In the second half, Thomas and Abbott both received techs. Then the Arizona State bench received a technical for arguing the ruling. So the Huskies wound up getting two free throws and the ball out of that deal.
Thomas was upset mostly with Arizona State forward Kyle Cain for running him over after an in-bounds player. Thomas ran down the court and yelled, "Don't do that!" Abbott stepped in.
The technical fouls fired up the Arizona State crowd and players briefly. Then Romar got after the Huskies for losing their composure during a timeout, and they went on a 10-0 run to put the game away.
8. Justin Holiday must stop committing cheap fouls early in the game. That's his M.O. on the road, for whatever reason. Holiday did it again Thursday, and he was limited to eight minutes in the first half. He has to stay on the floor. He can't waste fouls.
9. They still shot too many three-pointers, but at times, the dribble penetration was better. Almost half of the Huskies' shots (26 of 56 field-goal attempts) were three-pointers. The Huskies made only eight of them. Take away Wilcox, and the other players were 4 of 17 from three-point range.
Still -- and I know it's crazy to say this -- the Huskies did a better job of attacking the basket. The result was 30 free-throw attempts and 21 assists on 25 baskets.
10. Lorenzo Romar went to a zone defense at the right time. Late in the first half, Romar switched to a zone because he didn't think the Sun Devils had enough shooters outside of Abbott. And his team was also in foul trouble playing that pressure man-to-man defense.
Well, for all the talk about how the Huskies are wasting their time playing zone during portions of games, they played it pretty well Thursday, especially in the first half. They wound up increasing their lead by seven points while playing that zone.
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