Huskies down California, 84-69, to sweep Bay Area opponents
Led by Isaiah Thomas and 25 points from Quincy Pondexter, the Huskies sweep Bay Area foes and even their Pac-10 record
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Jerome Randle thought he had an assist and it was going to make the highlights.
California's point guard charged full-bore at Washington forward Justin Holiday on a two-on-one fast break before flipping a behind-the-back pass to guard Patrick Christopher on the left wing.
Unfortunately for Randle, he never saw Isaiah Thomas who chased the play from behind, intercepted the pass, tiptoed along the baseline and raced the other way where he was fouled on a layup.
Thomas sank both free throws putting the Huskies ahead for good on a play that proved to be symbolic in Saturday's 84-69 victory that snapped a three-game losing streak to the Golden Bears.
"I thought for sure Randle was just going to go up, but I guess he never saw Isaiah," Holiday said. "Once Isaiah made that steal, I was like, for real. It's like that. It's one of those games. That just raised everything to another level."
Thomas' free throws with 14:22 remaining pushed the Huskies ahead 9-8 and started a run that turned the game into a laugher.
Washington outscored Cal 26-4 over the next 5:19, takingthe fight out of the Bears.
"Those are the kind of plays that we want to win games, not to ever give up on fast breaks, two-on-ones or whatever it is," Thomas said. "I just played my heart out and we won."
The Huskies' 15-point victory, coupled with a 33-point win against Stanford on Thursday that stopped a three-game skid, moved them back into contention for the Pac-10 title.
Washington, which started the week last in the conference, improved to 3-3 in league and 12-5 overall.
"I never thought about us losing this game or the last two games," said forward Quincy Pondexter, who finished with 25 points and five rebounds. "I never even thought that was a possibility.
"If we play this way, we have the ability to separate ourselves and we can catch back up (in the conference standings.)"
Cal coach Mike Montgomery said when the Huskies play the way they have the past two games, there's no team better in the Pac-10.
"They played harder than we did," he said. "They were more physical than we were. They were energized and we got back on our heels, which is something that they do to people and they've done before."
Washington led by as many as 24 points (42-18) in the first half and 29 (77-48) in the second.
The Huskies turned the game into a rout with their defense that limited the Bears to 33 percent shooting (16 of 48) from the field.
The Huskies sent the Bears to the free-throw line 50 times, but they also forced Cal to commit a season-high 22 turnovers that were converted into 23 points.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning (10 points and seven rebounds) was the beneficiary of a fast-break opportunity, hammering a dunk over 7-foot-3 center Max Zhang. Backup forward Darnell Gant also flushed on Zhang in a lopsided contest that provided many Huskies highlights.
"I thought we did a really good job on our defensive pressure this entire weekend," said coach Lorenzo Romar, who moved past Tippy Dye into third place on the school's all-time coaching win list. "I think maybe that was one of the biggest improvements that we've made."
Thomas, whose defense often goes unnoticed, forced Randle into a career-high eight turnovers and season-low five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
The Huskies' student section chanted "Randle, Randle" and held its hands to form a zero until Randle finally scored with 12:12 remaining.
Randle, who scored a career-high 39 points at Washington State, said he was bothered from a right-knee sprain he suffered Thursday.
Washington also negated Cal's other big scoring threat, limiting Theo Robertson to seven points, which is seven fewer than his average.
While two of Cal's top three scorers were handcuffed, Patrick Christopher took over the scoring responsibilities and finished with a season-high 28 points.
The Bears, who entered the game in sole possession of the conference lead and riding a three-game winning streak, fell to 11-6, 3-2.
Cal's Big Three was no match for Washington's Big Two.
Pondexter continually burned the Bears with midrange jumpers and Thomas did a little bit of everything.
Thomas finished with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Thomas drew the largest applause from the crowd of 9,897 at Edmundson Pavilion when he forced a five-second penalty on Bears backup guard Brandon Smith.
"People think I can't play defense, but I can," Thomas said. "Maybe not the way Venoy (Overton) does, but I'm not a liability out there."
Attendance: 9,897. Officials: Scott Thornley, Rick Batsell, Frank Harvey III.