In rout of Nevada, UW junior guard begins to assert himself as Pac-10 play approaches
Isaiah Thomas has a refined sense of timing.
The 5-foot-9 Washington guard, in his third season with the Huskies, understands his role and the impact he has on his teammates. He also knows it’s time.
There is nothing like the Pac-10. Not the Maui Invitational or the non-conference. The real season starts now,” said Thomas, who scored a season-high 24 points Wednesday night in the Huskies’ 90-60 victory over Nevada.
It was the final pre-conference game for the Huskies (8-3). They begin Pac-10 play next Wednesday at USC. Only a game against Seattle U. Feb. 22 interrupts the conference schedule.
Coming out, I just wanted to be highly aggressive,” he said. It was the last tuneup to the Pac-10 and just have to be more aggressive.”
Coach Lorenzo Romar said, That’s a veteran comment. I think he understands . . . I don’t know what’s going to happen in Los Angeles, but as I continue to say, Isaiah is a winner.”
Thomas had his best overall game. He hit 9-of-19 from the floor. He had four assists and eight rebounds in 30 minutes.
Thomas has come under some criticism this season for what has been perceived as sub-par play. As much as he gives, more had been expected.
He has had a pair of single-digit scoring games this season. He had six turnovers in the Texas A&M loss. He was 4-of-14 in the loss to Kentucky, including 0-for-4 from three-point range, and 4-of-11 in the loss to Michigan State. He averaged 16.9 ppg last season and was at 15.0 through the first 10 games.
Was he regressing?
He says he concentrated on getting guys accustomed to making the right plays and playing the right way. We had a lot of new guys who had not seen non-conference and Pac-10 play.”
In his mind, he was sacrificing so others could elevate their games.
Isaiah is Isaiah,” said senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Everyone was saying he’s having a bad year, he’s doing this or doing that. Then he’ll shut you up with a 24 (points) real quick. He’s not going to let anything bother him.”
In the past two games, Thomas took over. In Friday’s 80-52 win over San Francisco, Thomas scored the first 10 points of the second half, allowing the Huskies to coast. Against Nevada, he scored 10 of his team’s first 20 points to start the second half . Again, they coasted.
The guys feed off me,” he said. So if I’m highly aggressive, they’re going to be highly aggressive.”
This time of year is also a reminder for Thomas. He remembers what happen to the Huskies a year ago. Entering the Pac-10, they also had a sterling non-conference record at 9-2. They then lost three of their first four conference games and five of their first eight.
Among those early losses was a 87-61 setback at USC. That was the widest differential in a loss all season.
We remember that game and we want revenge,” he said.
The Trojans also beat the Huskies later in the season at Hec Ed, 67-64. However, that would be their final loss of the regular season. The Huskies went on a nine-game win streak, winning the Pac-10 tournament and ultimately advancing to the NCAA tourney’s Sweet Sixteen.
This team, particularly Thomas, is determined to avoid a similar slow start. It doesn’t want to scramble over the final three weeks to qualify for the NCAAs.
We’re not there yet,” Thomas added, but we’re close.”
The Huskies have improved, especially since Romar inserted Aziz N’Diaye into the starting lineup. They are out-rebounding their opponents, 56-42. They have committed just nine turnovers over the past two games.
And they are consistent scorers, at least at home. They are third in the nation in offense at 90.6 ppg and have a 49.6 field-goal percentage.
Two injuries are of concern. Senior guard Venoy Overton hyper-extended his knee in practice on Monday and did not play. Romar said he should be 100 percent for USC.
With five minutes left Wednesday, Justin Holiday sprained his right ankle. He will have it examined today. Romar doesn’t believe he will miss the USC game.