Thomas' 30 Plunders the Raiders

SEATTLE - Led by a career-high 30 points by Isaiah Thomas, with 14 of those coming from the free throw line, the Washington Huskies won a workmanlike 74-69 game over the Wright State Raiders of Dayton, Ohio during the first day of the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic Friday night at Bank of America Arena.

In the opener for each team, the Huskies found themselves having to manufacture a win over a team that was rated as the pre-season runner-up in the Horizon League, historically a difficult mid-major conference. Washington was able to get key stops down the stretch and keep the Raiders at bay by scoring from the free throw line when they couldn't find their shooting touch anywhere else.

Up by as many as 18 in the second half, the Raiders (0-1) chipped away the Huskies' lead, mainly using an extended zone to thwart Washington's outside game, and the hot hand of Todd Brown and N'Gai Evans on their offensive end. Brown (21 points) and Evans (17 points) scored 27 of their 38 combined points in the final 20 minutes of the game.

But the Huskies never panicked, never wilted when the lead shrunk down to six right before the final television time out. With 2:32 left, the Huskies sunk eight of their last 10 free throws to seal the win, half of those coming from Thomas. Evans' layup as time expired gave the Huskies their final margin of victory. The Raiders outscored UW in the second half 41-34, yet the game was never in question.

"This was a great win for us," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "You're talking about a team that had 2-3 seniors and 2-3 juniors that knew their system really well. They weren't going to get rattled on the road. We were going to have to beat them, they weren't going to beat themselves. They were not going to go away. They are too disciplined and too much of a veteran team."

The Huskies did just about everything right against Wright State, even when they didn't have the shooting day they would have liked. A pesky WSU zone found the Huskies cold from deep (3-15 on the night), but the Huskies were 27-35 from the foul line, a .771 percentage that completely blew out of the water their woeful 18-37 effort in their exhibition win over Central Washington. They only committed 12 turnovers against a strong Raider defense (compared to 23 in their opening-season game at Portland last year), whereas they gave the ball up 15 times against CWU. They held their own in rebounding, tying the Raiders with 29 each, but won the offensive rebounding battle, 12-11.

"There were a lot of positives in this game," Romar said. "To go out and win a game like this against this kind of team early is something you can build on."

The Huskies play Belmont Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Bank of America Arena in the second game of the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic, followed by their final game of the tournament Sunday at 7 p.m. against Portland State.
Statistics:
Points: Thomas 30, Pondexter 12, Suggs 9, Overton 6, Gaddy 5, Gant 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Breshers 3, Holiday 2
Rebounds: Pondexter 9, TEAM 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Overton 3, Gant 2, Thomas 2, Holiday 2, Breshers 2, Gaddy 1, Suggs 1
Assists: Overton 3, Pondexter 2, Bryan-Amaning 1, Gant 1, Thomas 1, Gaddy 1, Suggs 1, Turner 1
Steals: Overton 3, Pondexter 3, Gant 1, Thomas 1, Gaddy 1, Suggs 1, Breshers 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 2


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