Thomas back on track?

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar wasn't giving up on sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas when he benched him for the start of the second half against Arizona on Feb. 4. Far from it. Romar simply wanted last season's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year to bring his game back to the level it belongs.

"He is really, really strong-willed and tough-minded," Romar said before the Huskies' matchup with Arizona State. "He's capable of bouncing back from situations like this. I think he'll be fine."

And he was.

Thomas had 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists and just one turnover, and sparked UW's 25-6 burst out of the starting gate in a 79-56 rout on Feb. 6. That avenged last month's 17-point loss to the Sun Devils in Tempe.

Thomas shot 3-for-10 and scored seven points against Arizona and was converting just 37.3 percent in six games prior to Arizona State. As a result, he had no complaints with Romar's decision to sit him down a couple of times.

"I got to do a better job of not just setting up my teammates, but getting easy buckets and making plays," Thomas said. "I'll try to do the best job I can to do it and if I'm not doing it right, Coach Romar is going to find the right person to do it."

Romar found the right person, and his name is Isaiah Thomas.

"We tried to just have fun out there and bring energy," Thomas said.
NOTES, QUOTES:
--The Huskies out-rebounded Arizona and Arizona State by a combined 85-60, grabbing 16 offensive boards in each game.
--Officials ejected a fan for throwing a half-empty water bottle on the floor during the Arizona game. The fan, a season-ticket holder, agreed to not attend any more games the rest of the season. The school, in turn, did not press charges and the fan apologized in an e-mail he sent to athletic director Scott Woodward.

ON THE SPOT: Senior F Quincy Pondexter has played exceptionally well the past four games, but he needs to keep his game at a high level when the Huskies visit the Bay Area this week for crucial games against Cal and Stanford. Many of his young teammates have minimal road experience, but Pondexter has been through this many times, and it's on him to set the right tone as UW strives to defend its Pac-10 title.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Even though we are playing at home, we're playing our best basketball of the year right now on a consistent basis. We'll see how good that is and how consistent that is as we go on the road." -- Coach Lorenzo Romar, whose club is winless in six games this season outside Seattle.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL:

SEASON RECAP: The Huskies were breezing along at 10-1 through the end of the non-conference schedule -- the Pac-10's only nationally ranked team -- and then they staggered a bit in a six-point win over Oregon State. That foreshadowed bigger problems against Oregon, which sliced through their press and pulled off a 90-79 upset. The real problem is on the road, where UW is 0-4 in the Pac-10 and has yet to play in the Bay Area, where Cal and Stanford boast combined home records of 20-3.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Quincy Pondexter, F Tyreese Breshers, F Justin Holiday, G Abdul Gaddy, G Isaiah Thomas. Key Subs -- G Venoy Overton, F Darnell Gant, C Matthew Bryan-Amaning, G Scott Suggs.

GAME REVIEW:
   Washington 92, Washington State 64
   Washington 81, Arizona 75
   Washington 79, Arizona State 56
GAME PREVIEW:
   at Cal, Thursday, Feb. 11
   at Stanford, Saturday, Feb. 13
   vs. USC, Thursday, Feb. 18
   vs. UCLA, Saturday, Feb. 20
   at Washington State, Saturday, Feb. 27
IN FOCUS: Win or lose Thursday at Cal, the Huskies cannot afford to look beyond Stanford, which enters the week unbeaten at home in Pac-10 play. The Huskies demolished the Cardinal 94-61 in Seattle last month, but UW has been a different team on the road. The Huskies are hoping to beat the Cardinal at Maples Pavilion in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1985 and '86.

ROSTER REPORT:
--Senior F Quincy Pondexter had 30 points and 12 rebounds in UW's win over Arizona. He had 17 points against Arizona State and has averaged 25.7 in four games since being held to two points in a 87-61 loss to USC.
--Sophomore G Scott Suggs came off the bench to score a season-high 13 points against Arizona.
--Junior F Justin Holiday had 10 rebounds in the win over Arizona State, the second time in three games he's reached that total.


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