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January 10, 2010

Cats Run Dawgs Out of the Desert

The Huskies (1-3, 10-5 overall) lost to the Arizona Wildcats (2-2, 8-8 overall), 87-70, on Sunday afternoon at the McKale Center in Tucson. The loss was Washington's third straight.

The Least You Should Know:

The Huskies were behind wire-to-wire, cutting the deficit to two early in the second half, but spending much of the game behind by 10 or more points.

Quincy Pondexter had his second straight poor performance, finishing with seven points and three rebounds.

Washington had no answers on the defensive end: Arizona shot 50% for the game, 8-17 from three-point range, and had six players in double figures.

The Narrative:

After consecutive double-digit losses, the Washington Huskies crucially needed a strong performance against Arizona to salvage anything at all from the early part of their season.

Instead, Washington heads back home with plenty of questions, as they had no answer at all for the hot-shooting Arizona Wildcats, who defeated Washington, 87-70, on Sunday afternoon.

The Wildcats scored the game's first eight points and never looked back. In building a 37-27 lead, Arizona held the Huskies' two leading scorers, Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, to zero points in the first half.

Elston Turner was the Huskies' only bright spot early on, scoring 11 of his 12 points in the first half, during which the team shot only 33% from the field.

The Huskies started the second half on an 8-0 run, playing their best 90 seconds of basketball all weekend. They cut the lead to two points, 37-35, on a three-pointer by Thomas with 18:33 remaining in the game.

After that bucket by Thomas, Wildcat head coach Kevin O'Neill called a timeout, and Arizona methodically built their lead from there. The Huskies were never within 10 points in the game's final 12 minutes.

While point guard Venoy Overton was the favorite target of the Arizona State crowd on Friday evening, freshman Abdul Gaddy was the recipient of the fans' enmity at the McHale Center Sunday. Gaddy originally committed to play at Arizona before changing his mind and going to UW.

Despite being booed each time he touched the ball, Gaddy scored his career-high Sunday, finishing with 13 points on 5-7 shooting.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Thomas finished strong with 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists.

The Huskies return home for a visit from the Bay Area schools this weekend, with Stanford coming in on Thursday, and Cal returning for a rematch of last year's triple-overtime thriller on Saturday.

Analysis and Observation:

The first half was the flattest I've seen the Huskies all season. On Friday, against the Sun Devils, at least you could blame ASU's deliberate approach for lulling the Huskies to sleep. Tonight, I have no idea why they came out and looked like they were sleepwalking.

Abdul Gaddy scored 13 tonight and looked in control, but it felt a bit as if he was looking for his shot to quiet the crowd. He finished with only one assist and three turnovers on a night when it may have been better to get his teammates involved more.

Husky of the Game: Isaiah Thomas. 18 points, five boards, five assists. Say what you will about IT, but he doesn't hang his head when the Huskies get behind.

I think it's safe to say that the Huskies are vulnerable on defense after getting throttled on that end of the floor for three straight games by three very different offenses.

Tyreese Breshers has to find a way to stay on the floor. He's picked up at least three fouls in eight games so far this season. Since he's the only reliable scoring option the Huskies have in the post, it'd be nice to see him able to play more than 12-13 minutes a night.

I'm not sure where the Huskies go from here. They've played two-and-a-half straight games of ineffective and uninspired basketball (the second half against Oregon, and the two games in Arizona) proving they're either badly slumping or not as good as advertised. It's hard for a team to downgrade expectations on the fly, but this may be a big week of soul-searching on Montlake.

Although the effort was there in the second half, Guys on the bench looked to be hanging their heads -- not a good sign.

Since there's no way I can look at the Huskies as a favorite on Saturday (although I think Vegas might), Thursday against Stanford is clearly a must-win for the Dawgs.


Josh Anderson is the publisher of Montlake Madness, a 100 percent free fan site dedicated to University of Washington basketball. UDUBsports.com will be teaming up with Josh for the basketball season to provide even more comprehensive coverage of all the action!


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