The Washington Huskies returned Thursday night.
They returned to Hec Edmundson Pavilion in the literal sense, after suffering three straight losses on the road. But they also returned to what the UW players like to call “Husky basketball,” letting their swarming defense fuel an up-tempo offense.
Powered by a home crowd of 9,883 and a desire to right their season, the Huskies rolled over California, 109-77, setting or matching multiple records along the way.
“For us, it all starts on the defensive end,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Defensive energy, focus and concentration allows us to be a good basketball team.”
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And all that defense morphed into some dazzling numbers.
This was UW’s school-record sixth 100-point game of the season. The Huskies also tied a school record with 17 3-point field goals. And they set season highs in assists (30) and blocked shots (11). It was their 13th consecutive home win by 10 or more points, also a school record.
“It’s interesting, the focus that it takes to come out and defend like that somehow translates over to the offensive end in a lot of cases – not every time, but in a lot of cases – because you’re dialed in, you’re just a little bit sharper all the way around,” Romar said. “I think that was the case tonight.”
Isaiah Thomas led the way with 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including 6-of-8 accuracy on 3-point tries. Thomas also had nine assists and two turnovers.
Five other Huskies scored in double figures. Washington shot 56.6 percent from the floor and went 17 of 31 on 3-pointers (54.8 percent). UW forced 16 turnovers with four steals and outrebounded the Golden Bears, 37-33.
“We wanted to change everything that we’ve been doing not so well, and that’s just defense and play Husky basketball,” Thomas said. “And we did a good job of that today. The energy that we brought and the difference on the defensive end made us play so well.”
The result left Washington (16-7 overall, 8-4 Pacific-10 Conference) a game-and-a-half behind idle Arizona (9-2) and a half-game behind UCLA (8-3).
“They were obviously stunned coming off of three losses, and they did a great job,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery, whose team slipped to 13-11 and 6-6. “They got all over Allen Crabbe early with denial, and we didn’t respond very well. If you look at it statistically, they scored 109 points and we only got them on the free-throw line seven times – we weren’t even close. They were very physical and got in our heads a little bit.”
Crabbe, a 6-foot-6 freshman who came in averaging 12 points and six rebounds, played only 10 minutes before going out after knee-to-head collision with UW 7-footer Aziz N’Diaye.
However, even before that the Huskies were playing like what they were: a desperate team facing a chance for new life at home. And as a practical matter, they put the Bears away in the first 10 minutes, while streaking to a 30-16 lead.
Over those 10 minutes, Washington had 10 assists on its first 13 baskets. Over that span, the Huskies forced six Cal turnovers and blocked three shots.
Then, they kept pedal to metal on their way to a 58-34 at halftime. Their lead peaked at 38 points about 10 minutes from the end.
“Obviously, you play better at home – most teams do,” said Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who had a game-high nine rebounds. “And obviously with the Dawg Pack and how they are, we got a lot of energy from them. I think we had a great week of practice. Intensity was up. Nobody was feeling sorry for themselves.”
The Huskies play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, when Stanford visits Edmundson Pavilion off a 75-62 Thursday win over Washington State. Stanford won the earlier meeting on its home court, 58-56.