Thomas helps Huskies start road streak

PULLMAN - With California's win over Arizona State giving them the Pac-10 crown, the Washington Huskies still have an outside chance of getting into the Big Dance without winning the league Tournament. They took a big step toward that goal Saturday night, riding the hot hand of the smallest player on the floor to gut out a 59-52 win over WSU at Friel Court in front of a boisterous Cougar crowd.

Isaiah Thomas scored 13 of Washington's 18 points during the final 7:30 of play, including two big 3-pointers to help the Huskies draw away from WSU after UW let a 35-21 halftime lead slip to nothing after a Klay Thompson 3-pointer - his only made jump shot of the night - drew the Cougars level at 39 with just over 13 minutes to play.

"We knew we had our own run left in us," Thomas said. "I had to carry my team a little bit, and my teammates found me. I knocked down some shots."

Up four with 19.4 seconds left, Washington State's Reggie Moore had the ball stripped from him while trying to drive. The Huskies' Matthew Bryan-Amaning was able to gather in the loose ball and rifle a pass ahead to Thomas, who cooly laid the ball in and made the and-1 after getting fouled by WSU's DeAngelo Casto with 10 seconds left. He converted the shot, which ended up being the final margin of victory.

"He hit a couple of shots, he hit his free throws; he was definitely a presence for us down the stretch," Romar said.

While it was Thomas and Bryan-Amaning - who had 15 first half points en route to his third career double-double (17 points and 12 rebounds) - who carried the load for the Huskies (19-9, 9-7), it was Casto who did the heavy lifting for the Cougars (16-12, 6-10), scoring 19 of his own. Thompson, who typically averages over 20 points a game for Washington State, has been downright disastrous against UW. Ever since going 3-11 in the Cougars' 68-48 loss to Washington last season, the sophomore star has shot a combined 10-47 against the Huskies - including 4-29 this season.

But the Cougars wouldn't give up on their Senior Night, especially since the student section had peppered the Huskies from the first time they showed themselves over an hour before tip-off. When it comes to their cross-state neighbors, they apparently only know one chant - and they let the Huskies hear their special greeting early and often.

"They was all up in us during warmups and everything," Thomas said, acknowledging his post-game salute to the 'Zzu Crew' was met with a more than a few gestures that were apparently telling the sophomore from University Place that he was number-one.

WSU got an and-1 from Casto to start the second half and reeled off eight-straight points before a floater in the key by the Huskies' Venoy Overton put UW up on the board with 16:15 to go. From that point on the game see-sawed back and forth, but Washington State was only able to cut into the Huskies' eight-point lead by one for the remainder of the game.

"Give Washington State a lot of credit," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "They knuckled down, fought back and got after us. But I give our guys a lot of credit too. We got some stops and were able to preserve the victory. On the road, we'll take any victory. Most may not understand how big a victory this was, given the circumstances. We could have folded, but we didn't fold. We dug in deep. That's how you win on the road.

"We had guys that didn't want to give it away. Down the stretch we began to get more loose balls and limit them to one shot, as opposed to the first half where they had 12 offensive rebounds. We just put our chinstraps on and finished the task."

"In our minds, we always thought we were going to win the game," added Bryan-Amaning. "You have to go in with that type of confidence."

Early on it looked like the Huskies were going to continue on the path that helped them roll WSU by 28 during the January meeting between the two in Seattle. UW rode the hot hand of Bryan-Amaning, who was 7-9 from the field in the first half, and were up by as many as 16 points.

"He got a couple good ones inside, and once that happened we went to him," Romar said of the junior from London. "He was very efficient."

Bryan-Amaning has now scored in double-figures for the sixth-straight game, a personal best. "I've been playing well recently, and we've been doing the same thing in practice," he said.

But a third foul was called on Bryan-Amaning with 3:59 left in the half, and that allowed Casto to go to work.

The win, coupled with their win over Stanford, means the Huskies are on the verge of a legitimate road streak. Since the end of the 2006-07 season, when they finished their regular season with four-straight victories, the Huskies have managed one three-game streak away from home out of the 56 road and neutral-court games they have played.

"Being away, once you get those road wins, that's the best wins, because you come together so much as a team," said Thomas, who is undefeated against WSU since arriving at Montlake a season ago. "It's all about team when you're on the road. Through thick and thin, when you're down or up…it's all about team. You've got to come together."
Statistics:
Points: Thomas 22, Bryan-Amaning 17, Pondexter 7, Overton 4, Suggs 3, Holiday 2, Gaddy 2, Turner 2
Rebounds: Bryan-Amaning 12, Pondexter 7, Thomas 6, Holiday 5, Overton 5, TEAM 4, Breshers 3
Assists: Holiday 3, Thomas 3, Pondexter 2, Gaddy 2, Overton 2, Suggs 1
Steals: Overton 2, Bryan-Amaning 1, Pondexter 1, Holiday 1, Gaddy 1, Breshers 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 2, Overton 1, Breshers 1


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