The Huskies won an ugly one Friday night in their first post Pac-10 contest, a 68 – 65 win over an overmatched Georgia Bulldog team in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC. The Huskies looked absolutely abysmal on offense for the first 20 minutes, and missed seven of their first nine shots and went almost eight minutes without a field goal.
The reason they stayed close was their defense. The Huskies deftly switched between man-to-man and zone defenses at key times in the game, and the switches constantly gave Georgia headaches at the guard position. If you watched closely, you'd see the on-ball defense from the guards very solid. Repeatedly the Georgia backcourt turned the ball over due to pressure from Thomas and Holiday. Overton came in and performed much of the same, and got into the passing lanes with great effect.
Washington also took incredible care of the ball, only turning the ball over five times.
In the zone scheme, the Husky defenders used their long arms and superior foot speed to keep their spacing such that Georgia always had hands either in their face or between them and the paint. Darnell Gant, Aziz N'Daiye, and Justin Holiday do an incredible job along the baseline keeping their gap integrity. You can hear Fortier and Shaw calling out the spacing assignments and the Husky front line executed it over and over tonight.
Georgia had to work hard for their points.
Still, it was an ugly game because of what transpired offensively in the first half. The Huskies could NOT buy a basket, even when the shots were uncontested. Justin Holiday's shot is all but gone. You can tell the minute he releases it that it isn't going in because the spin on it is nearly nonexistent. Compare Darnell Gant's shot, which rotates with perfect backspin and good tight rotation. Justin's jay looks flat and without rotation.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning looked like he left his shot in London tonight. He could not get any good looks, so when he got the ball he forced it up from areas that weren't in his comfort zone.
Still, Matthew Bryan-Amaning had six big rebounds and a blocked shot to go with his eight points. Aziz N'Diaye added five boards and had six points on three shots from the field, all of them from about a foot away from the rim. That is about what you hope for from the raw 7-footer from Senegal. He is not a scoring threat but he was Johnny on the spot on two occasions when an offensive rebound was there for the taking.
Isaiah Thomas controlled the game, particularly the second half, with his ability to get the ball into the right spots at the right times. The little guy from Tacoma had his struggles in the first half, but came back with a strong second stanza. During the final 20 minutes Thomas netted 12 of his 19 points and had seven assists in total. He is the guy the Huskies looked to when they needed a steadying hand and dictate the action from the point guard position. Georgia didn't have an answer for Isaiah.
Scott Suggs was huge tonight, as he knocked down some big time shots when it was called for. In the first half when Thomas, Holiday, and Wilcox were all misfiring, Suggs was the one guy that stepped up to the mantle and stoked the fire by scorching the nets. He rattled home a three-pointer to ignite an eight-point Husky run to erase a seven-point Bulldog lead, and early in the second half another long range jumper got the Huskies off the starting blocks and sprinting down the track to a 10-point lead.
Suggs will play a key role if Wilcox's shot is still not finding the range. I would not have Holiday shoot outside of 10-feet for the rest of the tournament, however long that may be.
One area that the Huskies really showed improvement was at the foul line, where they knocked down 12 of 14 free throws. The two they missed came at inopportune times, however, as Venoy Overton and C.J. Wilcox both missed in the final stretch, and in both cases they probably could've put the game away. Still, no one can argue with 12 of 14, particularly this Husky team.
The things the Huskies did right tonight were defending the perimeter, zoning when they needed a rest, pressing when the game needed speeding up, and forcing Georgia into taking shots that they had no business taking.
Sure, it wasn't pretty, but the Pac-10 Champions are into the second round where they'll face a very tough North Carolina team, the #2 seeds in the region. The Huskies will face a hostile crowd, a team that can run up and down the floor like they can, and most likely an officiating crew that won't be looking to do them any favors since the crowd will likely be 80-20 against them.
Hopefully the Tar Heels will dwell on the Huskies first half performance tonight and look past them.
And I very much doubt that the Huskies will shoot 28% again from the field for an entire half. Look for C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs to knock down more, and look for Isaiah Thomas to give the Huskies a huge edge at point guard, where UNC struggles a bit.
The Husky wild card never even had any kind of impact in tonight's game, yet the Huskies won. I doubt very much that Terrence Ross will go 0-5 from the field and not score tomorrow night.
The bottom line is that if the Huskies put forth this same defensive intensity as they showed tonight, once again only turn the ball over five times, and shoot closer to 50%, Washington advances to the Sweet 16.
Points: Thomas 19, Suggs 10, Bryan-Amaning 8, Gant 7, Holiday 6, Overton 6, Wilcox 6, N'Diaye 6
Rebounds: Bryan-Amaning 6, N'Diaye 5, Overton 4, Gant 3, Holiday 3, TEAM 3, Ross 2, Thomas 1, Suggs 1, Wilcox 1
Assists: Thomas 7, Bryan-Amaning 1, Holiday 1, Overton 1
Steals: Holiday 2, Thomas 2, Bryan-Amaning 1, Ross 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 1
Round 2: UW Advances Past Georgia
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