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December 19, 2010Forgive Isaiah Thomas for being frank, but he's ready to lace up his sneakers for Pacific-10 Conference competition.
The fierce competitor inside Thomas just can't wait to get started.
"No disrespect to any other team, but we want to get it rolling," Thomas said after the Washington Huskies coasted past the San Francisco Dons, 80-52, Saturday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. "It's like a brand new season, like the start of a new season when Pac-10 starts. We're ready for it. I'm really ready for it. So, we're just practicing to get mentally right for USC."
Washington (7-3) made a dent in its rebounding problem, and generally just outhustled and out-dazzled San Francisco before an approving crowd of 9,807.
The Huskies began with a larger lineup with 6-foot-9 forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning starting alongside 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye for the first time.
The result was a noticeable rebounding advantage when the two were on the court together, especially in the early stages of the game. Washington wound up outrebounding San Francisco, 40-33, with Bryan-Amaning leading the team with nine boards, seven on the offensive end.
"I thought we did a better job of boxing out on the boards," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, who stressed rebounding all week in practice after the Huskies lost to Texas A&M by one point. "In the first half especially we held them to one (offensive) rebound and the second half wasn't nearly as good, but I thought we made progress that way. We out-rebounded that team, who had been doing a good job in their own right on the boards. And you might say this wasn't some of the more high profile schools, but I'd just remind you that we got outrebounded by Eastern (Washington) and Saint Martin's. I felt there was progress."
The Dons (4-6) ran out of ways to try to stop the Huskies.
They held the ball at times in the second half to slow the game's pace to a crawl. The Huskies waited patiently to pounce on opportunities to take the ball away. San Francisco had 17 turnovers to Washington's four.
And while Washington experienced in off night from long range (six of 26 on 3-pointers), there was no shortage of nifty passes and powerful dunks, including the first of point guard Abdul Gaddy's career on a drive from the top of the key.
The Huskies had 21 assists with Venoy Overton leading the way with seven to go along with his six rebounds.
"They are relentless in their pursuit of the ball, and they have great size and athleticism to go along with it," San Francisco coach Rex Walters said. "I have seen a huge jump from last year's team to this year's team. Suddenly guys that we didn't have to pay attention to last year are a huge shooting threat."
Part of that praise was directed at guard Scott Suggs, who made 6 of 7 field goals, including all three of his 3-pointers to lead the Huskies with 15 points.
Washington started the game ice cold from long range. But two quick 3-pointers by Suggs started heating things up and extended a 12-11 lead to 18-11. Soon it became a double-digit lead that reached 39-23 by halftime.
"It was weird to see, especially at home where we're a really good shooting team," Suggs said. "Every time guys shot I thought they were going in. I'm sure they did too. It just didn't happen to fall then."
Dunks and other crowd-pleasing shots were in no shortage.
Gaddy found N'Diaye for an alley-oop. And later, Thomas stole the ball in the backcourt, dribbled behind his back then lobbed the ball to an airborne Gaddy, who laid it in to put Washington up 28-15.
Thomas caught fire from the field early in the second half. He finished with 12 points, followed by the 10 points apiece from Gaddy and Bryan-Amaning, nine points from N'Diaye and eight points from Justin Holiday.
It was such a good night for the Huskies that even walk-on forward Brendan Sherrer got into the action, scoring on a short banker in the game's final minutes, igniting a roar from the crowd. It was only his second basket of the season.
The Huskies have one more non-conference game on Wednesday when they host Nevada. Pac-10 play starts on the road the following week in Los Angeles, beginning with USC on Dec. 29.
"I think we're ready to do it, but we've got one more game and a week or so of practice," Romar said. "If we go out and play like we did against Texas A&M, we're not ready to start the Pac 10. We may want to, but we're not ready to go do that. Tonight, I thought we did a better job ... we did some things that were applicable the next time we go on the road."