Washington men knock out Arizona, 85-68
The 20th-ranked Huskies escaped with a gritty 85-68 victory that kept them on top of the Pac-10 and extended their Edmundson Pavilion winning streak to 11 games.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Arizona State @ Washington, 1 p.m., FSN
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On the play of the night — and perhaps the season — Isaiah Thomas disappeared into the tunnel to save a loose ball.
He returned seconds later, pumping his fist and barking orders. Then with a burst, he exploded into the teeth of Arizona's defense before passing to Darnell Gant on the wing for an open three-pointer.
The play demonstrated Thomas' iron will and Washington's never-say-die desire in a college basketball game that felt more like a heavyweight bout between the best teams in the Pac-10.
When it was over, the 20th-ranked Huskies escaped with a gritty 85-68 victory that kept them on top of the conference and extended their Edmundson Pavilion winning streak to 11 games.
In a game in which Thomas dazzled the sellout crowd of 10,000 with his scoring and passing, he drew the loudest ovation for a defensive rebound that snuffed the life out of the Wildcats.
"It was big," Thomas said. "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar is probably going to talk about it the whole time because he loves plays like that. I just wanted to make the play for my team, and in these types of games you got to make those type of plays to win the ballgame."
The big showdown — the first contest between a pair of ranked Pac-10 teams since 2009 — was everything it was billed to be.
Super sophomore Derrick Williams flushed several spectacular slams for Arizona (15-4, 4-2 Pac-10), which entered the ESPN/USA Today poll this week at No. 25.
Thomas threw a pair of highlight alley-oop dunks. And each team landed haymaker after haymaker before Washington (14-4, 6-1) pulled away in the second half.
In a game filled with one highlight after another, the most thrilling sequence began with a turnover.
Gant lost the ball, which ignited an Arizona fast break. He recovered and blocked Kevin Parrom's midrange jumper, sending the ball bouncing out of bounds before Thomas raced in.
The Huskies junior guard grabbed the ball and flipped a no-look pass to Aziz N'Diaye before running through the tunnel near the Wildcats' bench and sliding on the floor.
"It was like football and baseball," Thomas joked. "Like I was sliding to home plate. I slid quite a ways."
Thomas came back and finished the sequence with a pass to Gant for the three with 12:08 remaining.
"That was a momentum-changer," Thomas said. "Big shot by Darnell. I've been on him this whole week. I said, 'You got to knock the open shots down,' and he shot it with confidence and knocked it down."
The play was one of 10 assists for Thomas, who also had 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Justin Holiday tied Thomas for game-high scoring honors with 22 on 8-for-11 shooting.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Romar said Thomas' play was symbolic of UW's effort.
"No one played lackadaisical," he said. "Everybody put forth everything they had, I thought tonight, and that play kind of typifies what we were about tonight.
"I thought we really scrapped against this team."
Washington's big three was too much for Williams, a Pac-10 Player of the Year candidate. He was saddled with fouls and he finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. He didn't score in the last 6:42.
Both teams started slow before Thomas scored the first points with 17:59 left on a dribble-drive layup that drew a foul from Williams.
Thomas and Holiday guided the Huskies in the opening minutes, but it was Washington's defense — on Williams in particular — that allowed UW to go into halftime with a 36-31 advantage.
The first-half highlights included a pair of one-handed, alley-oop lob passes from Thomas that Bryan-Amaning and Holiday flushed for dunks that brought the capacity crowd to its feet.
Arizona took a 44-43 lead with 16:03 left in the second half.
Bryan-Amaning countered on the next possession and flushed a dunk that put Washington ahead, and the Huskies never trailed again. Washington outscored Arizona 42-24 the rest of the game.
"We did this as a team, and that's something we talk about quite a bit," Romar said. "So you have to be excited about that. It's not about the score. It's about did we try to do things right, and I thought we really tried to play right."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
Attendance: 10,000. Officials: Mark Reischling, Randy Burkhart, Tom Spitznagel.