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November 17, 2010

After slow start, Huskies say aloha to Eagles

When another team is emulating the style of basketball you prescribe, it doesn't sit well with a coach.

Lorenzo Romar watched the Eastern Washington Eagles outhustle his Washington Huskies in the first half and saw enough of it.

"We were getting outscrapped," Romar said. "That's something we take pride in. We need to be the catalyst in that regard."

Leading by eight points at halftime, the Huskies went to a smaller lineup to start the second half and picked up the pace on the way to picking apart the Eagles, 98-72, Tuesday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Toying with the idea of starting the second half with 7-footer Aziz N'Diaye, Romar followed the advice of assistant coach Jim Shaw to go with Venoy Overton as a third guard instead and didn't regret the decision.

Overton shut down the Eagles' Tremayne Johnson, who scored 10 points in the first half, and was a play-making spark on offense as the Huskies worked out the kinks in the second half to improve to 2-0.

Forward Justin Holiday led Washington with 18 points and Matthew Bryan-Amaning had 14 points and 10 rebounds, but it the defensive spark of Overton (nine points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals) that turned the game and kept the crowd entertained.

"(Coach Romar) put me on No. 20 (Johnson)," Overton said. "He said, 20 was killing us in the first half and he wanted me to get on him and slow him down. I guess they didn't want him to bring it up anymore, so that took away that problem fast."

Washington made 13 3-pointers for the game against Eastern Washington's 2-3 zone defense, with Holiday and Abdul Gaddy hitting two in a row to expand the Huskies' lead to 62-39 with just under 15 minutes remaining.

"He said, 'Keep shooting,'" Holiday said of Romar's halftime talk.

Stumbling out of the gate was the only negative that Romar spoke about as his Huskies, ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, now look to their first trip to the high-profile Maui Invitational Nov. 22-24.

Among the bright spots for the Huskies was Gaddy's newfound confidence in his shooting and a big first half from true freshman Terrence Ross.

Gaddy, who struggled with his shooting last season, made 5 of 6 shots, including three 3-pointers, and finished with 13 points. Ross, the former prep star from Portland, Ore., scored nine points in the first half and got a loud ovation from the crowd during a substitution.

Gaddy was part of the smaller lineup that began the second half along with guards Overton and Isaiah Thomas and forwards Bryan-Amaning and Holiday.

Overton ignited the crowd with his defense and fancy passes. He flipped one pass over his shoulder while falling out of bounds that led to a Bryan-Amaning dunk in the first half.

It was highlight reel material.

"Definitely, I know what my role is," Overton said. "People tell me. I've got to get out there and do what I normally do. When I come in the energy goes up a little bit."

Thomas wasn't his usual self from the field, as he made only 2 of 9 shots and finished with nine points. He also was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
But Thomas led Washington with five steals, which often led to easy baskets.

"I think that we aren't going to play against anybody with the speed and quickness that Washington has," Eastern Washington coach Kirk Earlywine said. "They play at an unbelievable speed and we can't replicate that in practice."

Kevin Winford led the Eagles (0-2) with 14 points followed by the 13 points from Johnson and the 10 apiece from Cliff Ederaine and Jeffrey Forbes.

Romar pointed to the positives of playing the Eagles.

"They zoned us almost the entire game which is great, great practice for us to get some reps against a zone," Romar said. "When I look down at the stat sheet and see that we had 28 assists and only 10 turnovers and shot almost 49 percent, I think we did a pretty good job against that zone. Our guys found the open areas and really did a good job against it."

Romar's Huskies can now start focusing on the fun and sun in Hawaii, where they'll open against Virginia and could find themselves facing Kentucky in the second round.

Were the Huskies already thinking about the beaches in the first half against the Eagles?

"No, I don't think so," Holiday said. "I haven't been thinking about Hawaii yet. I go game by game."

Earlywine couldn't help but think about Washington's potential.

"They should have a legitimate hopes of playing in the Final Four," Earlywine said. "Their guard play is that good. Overton is such a good defender on the ball. Amaning is playing really well in the middle as well, and if their big boy (N'Diaye) can keep coming along then they will be a very good team."


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