Friday, March 11, 2011

HUSKIES: Dawgs edge WSU in first round of PAC-10 Tournament

The Huskies are going through the routine. UW is down by eleven points midway through the 1st half, and can’t figure out the Washington State 2-3 zone that is smothering the paint. Klay Thompson is draining contested threes and on is fire, and seemingly can’t be stopped. The Cougars had all the answers for the Huskies. If Isaiah Thomas would drive, he would be met instantly by two WSU defenders. If Justin Holiday tried to pass the ball inside to Aziz N’Diaye, Aziz would have no where to go. This game looked EXACTLY what the previous games looked like against WSU. The Dawgs might as well have walked away, got on a plane, and flew home.

Isaiah Thomas said no. Not on my team.

To Continue...

The Huskies started slow, falling down double digits multiple times during the first half. Nothing was working inside, with Matthew Bryan-Amaning getting two quick fouls early in the game and the Cougars executing their 2-3 zone to perfection. UW was lucky to be only down by 32-40 at the break with how poorly they played during the first half. The only bright spot was first time starter Terrence Ross, who had 13 points in the first half.

Nobody was feeling good about the Huskies’ chances at this point, because in each of the two previous losses to the Cougs, they were down at halftime.

But at the darkest time, with the Tournament on the line, something clicked within the Huskies.

In an explosion of emotion and defensive pressure, the Huskies made a 10-0 run coming out of halftime, which gave them their first lead of the night 42-40. The run extraordinary run shell-shocked WSU, who didn’t look like they expected UW to show toughness and resiliency out of the break.

After that first half of frustration, everything came together for the Dawgs. MBA was working inside. Justin Holiday was shutting Reggie Moore down. Freshman C.J. Wilcox, the team’s 3-point specialist, completed an extraordinary night when he sank his 5th three pointer of the night to put the Dawgs up 79-73 late in the second half. The game was going down to the wire, and you knew it was going to be the leader of the team to close it out.

Isaiah Thomas.

As much as people will talk about Klay Thompson’s record breaking 43 point night, none of those points added up to what Isaiah Thomas brought to the table. Thomas’ final line was 21 points and 11 assists (which is an awesome night), but his leadership motivated the Huskies beyond all else. After every time out, Isaiah would go over to the bench and pump everyone up.
The 5’9” Thomas wrestled away a rebound from 6’6” Klay Thompson. I.T. was not going to let the game slip away from the Huskies in the final seconds.

"Isaiah had a game for the ages," Romar said. "His block out of Klay Thompson and then getting him to foul him was a championship play."

Thompson hit eight 3-pointers in his extraordinary return from a one-game suspension, but couldn't sink his last two attempts to tie it in the final minute for the Cougars. Thompson missed a free throw with 48 seconds left and a 3-point attempt with 29 seconds to play. UW would end up winning 89-87.

"This is great. I feel incredible," Isaiah Thomas said after the game. "This is what March is all about. We withstood and we fought back hard."

What UW did tonight was a big statement. It showed that they can get past adversities like the Venoy Overton misdemeanor charge earlier in the week and still compete. Only a team with solid leadership can do that sort of thing, and that’s a testament to Lorenzo Romar and Isaiah Thomas.

The Huskies continue their quest for the PAC-10 championship Friday, March 11, at 8:30 on FSN vs. Oregon.

Reach Nathan Parsons at