Huskies show their diversity
Washington uses its outside game this time to dispatch EWU
Four days after wiping away an overmatched McNeese State team by flexing its muscle inside, UW used 3-point shooting and a sticky-fingered point guard to run away from a pesky Eastern Washington team, 98-72, on Tuesday night.
The Huskies drilled five 3-pointers over EWU's zone defense in the first 11 minutes of the game, then stole away the Eagles' upset hopes with a flurry of Venoy Overton pickpockets near midcourt.
“In past years, people have been (questioning) our outside shooting,” said post Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who scored 28 points in the season opener but settled for a workmanlike 14 on Tuesday. “(Tuesday's performance) shows how much offensive power we have.”
The 17th-ranked Huskies (2-0) have now beaten their first two opponents by a combined 80 points. On Tuesday, the did it with 13-for-33 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
For the first few minutes of Tuesday's game, UW looked like a possible upset victim in its final tuneup for next week's Maui Invitational. The Huskies hit just one of their first six shots while falling into a 9-3 hole over the opening 3 ½ minutes. An Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer helped wake UW from its stupor, and coach Lorenzo Romar went to a small lineup of bench players shortly thereafter. Overton, C.J. Wilcox and freshman Terrence Ross hit 3-pointers in a span of four minutes as the Huskies rallied for a 25-21 lead.
Eastern stayed close over the next six minutes before Overton broke the Eagles' will.
First, he stripped EWU point guard Cliff Colimon, then recovered to poke the ball away after the Eagles' Geoffrey Allen scooped it up. In one motion, a spinning Overton flipped an overhead pass in front of a streaking Bryan-Amaning for a fast-break dunk.
Nine seconds later, Overton stripped an EWU guard again before converting an uncontested layup on the other end for a 40-30 lead.
“I know my role,” Overton said. “People keep telling me. I've just got to go out and do what I normally do. I guess when I come in, the energy goes way up.”
By halftime, the Huskies led 42-34 despite just nine combined points from post players Bryan-Amaning, Aziz N'Diaye and Darnell Gant.
UW opened the second half with a smaller lineup made up of Bryan-Amaning and four guards. Bryan-Amaning converted two quick putbacks as the Huskies scored the first nine points after halftime for a 51-34 lead.
After that, for the second time in four days, the rout was on. Abdul Gaddy and Justin Holiday combined for three 3-pointers in a two-minute span as the Huskies pulled out to a 22-point lead midway through the second half.
Gaddy provided the most surprising offensive spark from the outside. The sophomore guard hit three 3's on four attempts Tuesday after going 4-of-22 from behind the 3-point arc over his first 37 games at UW.
“It's doing wonders for his confidence,” Romar said of Gaddy, who has hit 64 percent of his field goals this season after making just 42 percent as a freshman. “It's amazing what happens when guys get older.”
Gaddy finished with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Holiday led the Huskies with 18 points, while Bryan-Amaning recorded his second double-double in as many games with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ross scored all nine of his points in the first half. Overton also had nine points but added eight assists and four steals.
Thomas had nine points on 2-of-9 shooting, but UW didn't need much from him on this night. He had a team-high five steals in a game that saw the Huskies force 24 turnovers.
The most important statistic may have been UW's 28-to-10 turnover ratio against the Eastern zone, as compared to 8-to-24 for the Eagles.
The only real scare came when Overton came down hard on his tailbone after a twisting layup attempt in the final minutes. He temporarily stayed in the game but had a large ice pack on his lower back during the postgame press session.
“My tailbone's a little sore,” he said. “No worries. I'll be good.”
UW's slate is about to get heavier, with several dangerous teams joining the Huskies in Maui next week. Washington will open against an unbeaten Virginia team that's led by former Washington State coach Tony Bennett, then No. 12 Kentucky and No. 2 Michigan State loom as possible opponents in the following days.
“I'm not saying the real basketball starts, but now you see where you are against the rest of the nation,” Holiday said. “We're ranked, that's good and all, but it doesn't matter unless we show where we are this tournament.”
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