Thomas reasserts his dominance, Huskies re-engage their defense: how did they lose 3 consecutive?
For a team that had fallen apart, the Huskies fit back together with nary a chip nor crack.
Apparently coach Lorenzo Romar this week in practice buffed out a few scratches, and the Huskies, after a 109-77 evisceration of Cal Thursday night, were again ready for sale to the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Either that, or the Bears for a night were St. Martins-Berkeley.
In losing consecutive games to Washington State, Oregon State and Oregon, the Huskies abandoned their trademark defense and the three-point weapon abandoned them.
“I think they were humbled, a little embarrassed by it,” said Romar. Shame, as any school teacher will tell you, is a powerful weapon.
Shame ran so deep that the Huskies set a record for points against a Pac-10 opponent, as well as season highs in blocks (11) and assists (30).
Shame apparently ran deepest in guard Isaiah Thomas, who returned to game-master form with nine assists, two turnovers and 23 points.
“It starts with me,” he said. “I took it on the the chin, losing those three.”
So determined was Thomas that he vowed this week to abandon, at least temporarily, his relentless tweeting. The man with the chattering fingers noticed.
“That’s why I shot so well,” said Tweet-free T, grinning. “My fingers (had been) tired.”
Once word gets around (presumably orally) that tweeting causes jump-shot fatigue, modern American mini-communication will come to a screech-stop.
After the dreariness of the last three games, it was no surprise that Washington would come out energized at home. Clobbering the 13-11 Bears so soundly wasnt a great shock Washington splattered Cal 92-71 on the road Jan.16 and the shorthanded opponent was further depleted when their second-leading scorer, guard Allen Crabbe, was knocked from the game in the first half with a concussion.
Yet the Bears took conference-leading Arizona to triple overtime Saturday before losing and are not without Pac-10 talent. But they were without Washington’s talent, which is just about the case with every other school in the league, which was why the three-game falloff was so startling.
Opponents have picked up on the fact that zone defenses that deny Washington penetration force the action outside, where Huskies shooters are too quick to pull the trigger on treys.
“A lot of it was me trying to make plays that weren’t there,” said Thomas. “I watched a lot of film this week, seeing where I made mistakes.”
This time, Thomas and his mates were the epitome of efficiency. After missing their first four shots, they scored on 13 of the next 15. The Bears withered under the efficiency and the audio riot of Hec Ed.
“We know they’re always aggressive,” said Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez, the game-high scorer with 24 points. “We played soft tonight and we couldn’t handle it.”
Ahead 58-34 at halftime, the Huskies had 18 assists for their 22 field goals. Thomas finished with as many assists as he did in full games against Oregon and Oregon State.
Early in the second half, he strolled down casually to the three-point line, lofted a tear-drop jumper, was banged to the floor, and made both the shot and the free throw for a 66-39 lead. Next time down, same spot and stroke, he went undefended for a personal seven-point run.
Mike Montgomery, the rueful Cal coach, said, “The scouting report said, ‘Don’t let him go to his left.’ ”
Once again, Thomas — who now has 1,500 points, 300 assists and 100 steals to join Eldridge Recasner as the only players in UW history to hit the milestones — was back in control of himself, and the Huskies. Both were formidable.
Imagine what’s possible if Romar issued a team-wide no-tweet zone.