Seattle - Nothing came easily for the Washington Huskies on Saturday against Arizona State.
The Pacific-10 Conference leaders and 20th-ranked team in the country trailed the sub-.500 Sun Devils in the second half. They allowed ASU to shoot 50 percent. And the home fans at Hec Edmundson Pavilion couldn’t celebrate until the final minute.
And, yet, when the final buzzer sounded, the Huskies not only had a win, but also a record-setter. Their 88-75 victory represents the most points ASU has allowed in a regulation game over its five seasons under coach Herb Sendek.
“It wasn’t easy,” junior guard Isaiah Thomas said. “Coach (Lorenzo Romar) said at the beginning of the game that this was one of the teams he’s kind of scared of because they play so hard. Especially when they’re hitting shots, they’re hard to beat. We sustained and took the lead late, but it was a tough game.”
UW’s Matthew Bryan-Amaning was the player who made the most obvious difference. The senior forward erupted for a career-high 30 points – on 11-of-16 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line. He also contributed nine rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.
“I just tried to find space,” Bryan-Amaning said. “It’s kind of hard with their matchup. I know their interior defense isn’t as good – that’s why they pressure up a lot. Coach told us there was going to be a lot of one-on-one coverage, and I should be able to get open tonight, so that’s what we tried to do. I love (one-on-one coverage). As long as I keep doing what I’m supposed to do and make some space for myself, I’ll be open to get the ball.”
His teammates made sure he got the ball the whole way: 16 points in the first half, 14 in the second.
But one of the things Washington didn’t do for 40 minutes was play defense.
Even while Bryan-Amaning was pouring in points from the paint, the Sun Devils stuck around by hitting 54 percent of their shots in the first half.
Doing the early damage was guard Ty Abbott, who went off for 13 points in the first half while hitting all three of his 3-point attempts.
But the second half, when the responsibility for guarding Abbott switched to Thomas, the ASU senior made just one of four 3-point tries. He ended up sharing the ASU scoring lead with Trent Lockett at 20 points each.
“Our main (defensive) problem was we were doing some switching with some of the guys, and we just weren’t communicating,” junior Scott Suggs said. “A couple of guys would run at one (player), leaving the other guy open. The first half there was just a lot of miscommunication. And then Isaiah did a real good job on Abbott in the second half.”
Even at that, Arizona State was five points down with just over a minute remaining when Thomas and Suggs combined to settle it.
Thomas drove hard into the paint, drew defenders, and passed the ball out to the corner, where Suggs knocked down the 3-point knockout punch.
“(Thomas) is doing a great job of getting (defenders) to come to him and kicking it to the open man,” Suggs said. “He had a couple of guys open on that one, and he just found me and I was able to knock it down.”
Whatever the game lacked in style points, it got the job done in the standings. Washington’s record jumped to 15-4 overall and 7-1 in the conference, while ASU fell to 9-10 and 1-6.
The Huskies get a week-long break in their Pac-10 schedule, playing next Jan. 30 at Washington State.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports