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Originally published Friday, February 25, 2011 at 10:01 PM

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Huskies defenders enjoying their season record for blocked shots

The Huskies, who host Washington State on Sunday night, set the season school record with 153 blocks in Tuesday's win over Seattle University.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Washington St. @ UW,

7 p.m., FSN

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Aziz N'Diaye says it is all about the timing.

Darnell Gant believes experience is the most important factor.

Justin Holiday admits he'll gamble occasionally. Matthew Bryan-Amaning prefers to read and react.

They're talking about blocking shots and in their distinct way, each has elevated the defensive technique of swatting the basketball into an art form.

"We've never had a group quite like the guys we have now," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Some guys are just extraordinary at it.

"We have more size inside and we have bigger wings this year. So collectively we have a group that's better at blocking shots."

The Huskies, who host Washington State on Saturday night, set the season school record with 153 blocks in Tuesday's win over Seattle University.

They're first in the Pac-10 with 86 blocks against conference teams and they're tied for 14th in the nation with an average of 5.7 blocks per game.

"It's not like we're going into games thinking we need to get this many blocks or X amount of blocks," Holiday said. "Sometimes we won't have any or we'll just have one.

"But lately, it's like everything is starting to click and we're getting more and more — I don't know — maybe we're getting more comfortable with each other."

In the past five games, Washington is averaging 9.4 blocks. In that span, Huskies had 11 blocks against California, 10 at Arizona State, 11 at Arizona and nine against the Redhawks.

"We got a lot of guys who have done it in their careers," Bryan-Amaning said. "Myself, Aziz, Darnell and Justin all blocked shots at a high level in high school.

"With all of us on the floor together, or a lot of us out there, we're starting to wall it up on the help side and that's where a lot of the blocks are coming from."

Shot-blocking has never been one of Washington's strengths.

The Huskies didn't keep block as a statistic prior to 1976. The previous single season record of 151 was last season. Before that the best tally had been 139, which was established in 2001-02 and 118 in 1992-93.

"I don't think the teams in the past had two bigs like we have that are real athletic and are good at blocking shots" junior co-captain Isaiah Thomas said. "You got to be good at blocking shots. You can't just be big."

Washington's interior defense starts with N'Diaye, a 7-foot center who talks about blocking shots as if it was geometry or physics.

"You have to have the right angle to get the block and you just have to time it," said N'Diaye who has 37 blocks. "Usually when you go for a blocked shot, if you don't time it, usually you end up getting a foul."

He's the enforcer in the group and collecting fouls has been one of his biggest problems since jumping from junior college to Division I basketball. N'Diaye has fouled out three times and he has had four fouls in seven other games.

Gant, a fourth-year junior, relies on guile. He has 13 this season.

"With me, Matthew and Justin — Terrence (Ross) is learning — we know the defense and it puts us in the right position for the most part," Gant said. "And we're good at timing the ball."

At 6 foot 6 and 185 pounds, Holiday is long and lean. Holiday was a Pac-10 all-defensive player last and is constantly patrolling the lanes so it no surprise he has a career-best 24 blocks this season.

"You're not going to block every shot, but we understand when to go for blocks or try to draw a charge," he said. "Sometimes when you go for a block, let's say you're coming from the help side, then you leave your man open for a shot.

"You're never going to be right 100 percent of the time."

No Husky protects the basket like Bryan-Amaning. He has 46 blocks this season, second in the Pac-10, and 150 in his career. He is second on UW's all-time list behind Welp's 186.

Last Saturday at Arizona, the 6-9 senior forward swatted a career-best seven shots, tying a school record.

"Our guards are doing a good job of funneling their man into the lane and just staying with them, which makes it easier for myself, Aziz or Darnell to come over and get the block," Bryan-Amaning said. "You can almost see when it's going to happen.

"It's all about getting stops. You just want them to miss, but if you can get a block that's going to hype everybody up, then that's even better."

Note

• Redshirt freshman guard C.J. Wilcox will remain in the starting lineup for a second straight game, which keeps senior Venoy Overton on the bench.

• Romar said junior guard Scott Suggs, who has missed the past two games after straining his left MCL, may return Thursday for the UCLA game.

• The Huskies will honor former standout Steve Hawes during the first half of Sunday's game against Washington State. The three-time letterwinner (1970-72) left UW as the No. 2 all-time leading scorer with 1,516 points. He's currently eighth on the list. Hawes' 20.8 career scoring average still ranks as the best all time.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

Record number
The Huskies set the season school record with 153 blocks in Tuesday's win over Seattle University.
Name Year Blocks
Matthew

Bryan-Amaning

Senior 46
Aziz N'Diaye Soph. 37
Justin Holiday Senior 24
Darnell Gant Junior 13
Rest of the team 33

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