For long stretches Thursday, the Washington Huskies looked like what they are: a team adjusting to life without their starting point guard.
At other times, they looked like something they also are: the Pacific-10 Conference leader and the 23rd-ranked team in the country.
Combined, the Huskies might have needed longer than expected but eventually pulled away from lightly regarded Oregon for an 87-69 win before a crowd of 9,692 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“(Oregon) kind of lulled us to sleep with that three-quarters-court pickup,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They weren’t doing it necessarily to steal the basketball, but just to slow us up a little bit – it made us stagnant. Once we figured that out we were better offensively.”
Romar cited that Oregon defensive style as one of the reasons he turned to senior Venoy Overton to replace point guard Abdul Gaddy, who was lost for the season due to a knee injury.
“We felt that this first time without Abdul, we knew we would need two ball-handlers – that’s why we did it,” Romar said. “Also, Venoy is a senior, and he’s experienced, and in this transition we felt that we’d be fine doing that.”
The move also set off a domino affect deeper into the UW rotation.
“It simply means some other guys get more minutes,” Romar added. “And the other things it means is we don’t play as many minutes of the game with two smaller guards. There were a lot of minutes in that game that we played with a bigger lineups.”
On of the guys getting added time was Terrence Ross – and he put it to spectacular use: a career-high 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field, including three of seven 3-point tries.
When Oregon took its first lead early in the second half, a Ross trey nudged the home team back in front. In the final minutes, Ross also threw down a dunk off of an ally-oop pass from Isaiah Thomas, which seemed to settle the issue.
“Actually, at the beginning of the game I didn’t really feel my shot,” Ross said. “The coaches said we were taking too many contested threes and we needed to attack the basket. I think that’s when I got my game going. I got to the basket, and they just kinda played off me. Then I hit a couple and had the chance to go right back to the basket.”
It was the freshman’s second career-high of a conference season now just three games old, following an 18-point breakout performance last week at USC.
Romar allowed that Ross is beginning to tap into potential that ranks up with the top Huskies he’s had.
“I’d say in terms of just his talent alone, he’s right up there with Brandon Roy,” Romar said. “... Spencer Hawes was really talented – to be able to do what he does at 6-11, the way he passes and shoots – he’s really talented. Terrence is up there. He’s up there with the top couple.”
Thomas came on late for 20 points – including the first dunk of his college career – while also providing nine assists. Matthew Bryan-Amaning had 13 points and eight rebounds.
In the first start of this season but 36th of his UW career, Overton had three points, three rebounds, five assists and three turnovers. Scott Suggs also got more minutes in Gaddy’s absence and contributed 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Nine Huskies scored. Eight grabbed rebounds.
It finally added up to more than enough to overcome Oregon (7-8, 0-3), which was led by Joevan Catron, who had 20 points, 10 rebounds and led an early second-half surge that briefly moved the Ducks in front.
“Guys were finishing some plays,” first-year Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “And you look at Washington’s defensive numbers, and they are probably the best defensive team we’ve played. It’s good to get some things going. But obviously we had some penetration there, but just didn’t finish some plays down the stretch. We had some opportunities but just couldn’t get them done.”
Washington (11-3, 3-0) concludes this homestand at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Oregon State.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports