BY Bob Sherwin 08:07PM 01/08/2011

UW’s offense gets the attention; defense earns wins

Huskies’ gritty second half against OSU delivers 103-72 victory

Washington forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning had 24 points and 15 rebounds against Oregon State. (Drew McKenzie/Sportspress Northwest)

Husky fans may never have seen an offense like this one. Actually, they definitely never have.

The 23rd-ranked Huskies, third in the nation with a 87.9 per game scoring average, recorded their fourth 100-point game Saturday in a 103-72 victory over Oregon State. Hundred-point games generally are reserved for the November non-conference mismatches, not so much for conference play.

Washington led just 40-39 at halftime but scored 63 points, shot 64 percent and overcame the Beavers at one point with a 34-10 run over an 11-minute, 21 second span.

“I called timeouts, when I thought I should of but I don’t think that is going to stop these guys,” OSU Coach Craig Robinson said. “You have to defend these guys and play tough the entire game or a tie game will turn into a blowout in five minutes.”

It did.

“That was turnovers, offensive rebounds by them, and they are a momentum team so once they get going,” Robinson added, “it was like we were a completely different team.”

The Huskies started the season with a offensive school record, scoring a combined 322 points in the first three games. It has a 29.3-point margin of victory at home. It is on pace to break the school point record of 3,026 set by perhaps the school’s greatest team, the 2004-05 team that earned a first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This team is all that. All that offensive flash. All those dead-eye shooters deep down the bench. All those points game after game.

It catches your attention but this offense is all about this defense.

“Everyone looks at the way we have been scoring, and that’s because we run,” said senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who led all scorers with 24 points and matched his career high with 15 rebounds. “But the only reason we run is we get stops. Contest the shot, rebound and push it.”

Look how they did it against Oregon State. The Huskies had nine steals. Entering the game the Huskies led the country with 8.3 steals per game. They had 10 blocked shots, four short of the school record. They had 17 offensive turnovers, 11 in the second half. They forced 14 turnovers.

“We were up 10 at the first media timeout, and that had everything to do with our defense,” UW Coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I think we forced a couple turnovers in the first few possessions. Our team understands — it doesn’t always work out this way – if we go on a run, if we begin to create distance between our opponent, it’s because of our defense, not because we started hitting shots. It’s because we started getting stops, and once we start getting stops everything else takes care of itself.”

Defense is gritty. It’s hard work. It doesn’t have the luster of hitting a three-pointer as the buzzer, but it’s the fundamental element of victory. The Huskies understand.

For most of the first half, Oregon State looked like a team that could run with Washington. The Huskies were a little confused early by their zones. They had just two or their steals and forced only three Beaver turnovers in the half.

“We’re the kind of team and when we’re down, we think we’re going to come back,” junior guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We feel like we can come back on any deficit.”

They did. And most people who saw it will credit the offense for suddenly finding the rhythm and the range. But it was the defense, the offense’s unheralded young brother, that triggered the onslaught.

The Huskies had two points off turnovers in the first half, 15 points in the second. They had 16 points in the paint in the first half, 36 in the second.

“We really pounded the boards,” Romar said. “We settled down with our defense. Guys started getting in the lanes and stealing some of their passes.”

It also a game that saw improved play by Venoy Overton. He has stepped into the starting point guard spot to replace Abdul Gaddy, who tore his anterior interior cruciate in his left knee in Monday’s practice and is lost for the season. Between Overton and Thomas, they had a combined 15 assists and just three turnovers.

The victory gives the Huskies a 4-0 record in the Pac-10, the school’s best start since the 1984 team went 6-0. They have also beaten conference opponents 10 straight times.

In its defense, this Husky team has the chance to be the most prolific in history.


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