Washington men's basketball opens season with victory
Isaiah Thomas scored a career-high 30 points and Quincy Pondexter added 12 as the defending Pac-10 champions posted a 74-69 victory over Wright State on the first day of the Athletes in Action Classic at Edmundson Pavilion.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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There was no championship hangover for Washington.
Isaiah Thomas scored a career-high 30 points and Quincy Pondexter added 12 as the defending Pac-10 champions began the men's basketball season Friday night with a 74-69 victory over Wright State on the first day of the Athletes in Action Classic at Edmundson Pavilion.
Unlike a year ago, Thomas made sure the 14th-ranked Huskies started the season with a win and delivered coach Lorenzo Romar, who turned 51, a great birthday gift.
"That's about as nice a gift as any," Romar said. "We won so I'll take it."
Wright State nearly spoiled the party.
The Huskies saw an 18-point second half (49-31) whittled to six after Todd Brown sank a three-pointer with a little more than five minutes left.
The Raiders, who traveled more than 2,000 miles from Dayton, Ohio, and were missing two of their top players, had a chance to cut their deficit even further on their next possession. But Scott Grote's three-pointer sailed long and the putback rattled out.
That's when Pondexter arrived.
After Grote's miss, Washington's senior captain drained a pair of free throws, made a steal and converted a layup to put Washington ahead 64-54 with less than four minutes remaining.
Wright State stormed back again when N'Gai Evans sank a jumper to cut the Raiders' deficit to 64-58. But Thomas sank a free throw and Pondexter converted a layup to seal the victory.
The Huskies were thankful to escape with a win, but said they'll be hard-pressed to defend their conference title with Thomas doing all the scoring.
"As we get into the season, we're going to find out who's who and who's going to score and who's going to rebound," said Thomas, who converted 7 of 14 shots from the field and sank 14 of 18 free throws. "Me scoring 30 points probably wouldn't be great every game. We got to find somebody to lean on."
No other Washington player scored in double figures. Scott Suggs chipped in nine off the bench.
Washington's trio of big men — Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Darnell Gant and Tyreese Breshers — combined for just 10 points and seven rebounds.
Their lack of productivity forced Pondexter to step up in the late minutes.
"I struggled for a lot of the game today," he said. "I was missing shots I wouldn't normally miss. But I knew for our team to win, down the stretch you got to score a lot of baskets in the paint. And that's what it came down to. And my teammates did a great job of finding me."
Wright State got 21 points from Brown, 17 from Evans and 12 from Cooper Land. The Raiders played without Vaughn Duggins (team suspension) and John David Gardner (hip injury).
Washington next plays Belmont, which defeated Portland State 74-67 in an earlier game Friday, at 7 tonight.
Romar said he was satisfied with Friday's result, but not necessarily pleased with the execution.
"It's disappointing in that we're not where we need to want to be," he said. "We've still got some work to do."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
|WRIGHT ST. 69|
Attendance: 8,239. Officials: Bruce Hicks, Frank Harvey III, Tom Wood.