Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning plays his way back into starting lineup
Huskies' Matthew Bryan-Amaning will be back in starting lineup when Washington plays at Stanford on Saturday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
UW @ Stanford, 5 p.m., FSN
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STANFORD, Calif. — With his predecessor Jon Brockman watching from the Haas Pavilion stands, Washington junior Matthew Bryan-Amaning played his best game since being benched last month.
The 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward provided the Huskies a defensive presence beneath the rim that was missing in the opening minutes when California forward Jamal Boykin pounded the Huskies for six easy points.
Bryan-Amaning made an immediate impact upon entering the game. On consecutive possessions, he forced Boykin into turnovers.
When he finished, Bryan-Amaning had 13 points — his most since a Dec. 27 game against San Francisco — and a team-high-tying six rebounds.
It wasn't enough to prevent Cal from running away with a 93-81 victory, but in addition to his previous impressive outings, it was enough to put him back into the starting lineup for Saturday's game at Stanford.
"Matt has really stepped up ever since the (Jan. 21) UCLA game," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He's really playing better."
Bryan-Amaning began the season as starter, but lost his job Jan. 8 to redshirt freshman Tyreese Breshers.
As a starter, Bryan-Amaning is shooting 62 percent from the field and averaging 7.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 22.6 minutes.
But in the two games before he was benched, he had totals of nine points and eight rebounds against Oregon State and Oregon.
"Sometimes you can send a message by restricting minutes," Romar said at the time. "We'll see how he responds."
As a backup, Bryan-Amaning's production fell. He shot 50 percent and averaged 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 19.5 minutes.
Meanwhile. Breshers made a marginal impact as a starter.
Romar has likened the bruising 6-7, 255-pound forward to Brockman, but the comparison is more apt when describing their capacity to inflict pain on the opposition.
Despite averaging just 11.7 minutes, Breshers has committed 69 fouls, second-most for the Huskies behind Venoy Overton's 74.
As a starter, Breshers has yet to reach double digits in scoring or rebounding and he hasn't played more than 22 minutes, partly because he's still recovering from shin surgery that forced him to miss the 2008-09 season.
Romar acknowledged Breshers and freshman Abdul Gaddy, who has started the past 16 games in place of Overton, appear to have hit the rookie wall.
"Maybe they've hit a wall, but I do think they have gained some valuable experience being in there in the thick of things," Romar said.
Despite Breshers' recent troubles — he had three points and one rebound in each of the past two games — Romar said the lineup switch is a result of Bryan-Amaning's improved play.
Not including a four-minute stint at UCLA, Bryan-Amaning shot 54 percent and averaged 9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 22.3 minutes in seven of the past eight games.
"He's got to the point where's he's back starting," Romar said. "So I think he's responded well."
With six regular-season games remaining, Romar said it's an unusual time to tinker with personnel.
He had hoped to have established a lineup and rotation by now as the Huskies (16-8 overall, 6-6 Pac-10) enter the final third of the conference season.
But few things have worked as planned for the defending conference champions, who started the season ranked 14th nationally.
Washington has fallen to sixth in the Pac-10 and needs a strong finish to make a case for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
Before the Huskies can think about the postseason, they need to improve on their 0-7 road record.
Washington whipped Stanford 94-61 last month at Edmundson Pavilion. But the Cardinal (11-13, 5-7) is the only team with a perfect Pac-10 home record at 5-0.
In their previous conference trips, the Huskies lost the second game by an average margin of 21.5 points.
"This has been our most focused and energized practice out of the three road trips that we've had," Romar said Friday. "So think that's a positive going into the game."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com