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December 6, 2010
Huskies finish strong after Portland rallies in second half
SEATTLE - Watching a 16-point lead get whittled down to six with less than 10 minutes remaining, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar had one thought: "This is great."
"It would be great if we could win every game by 30 points, but that's not reality," Romar said. "… We're going to be in this position a lot more coming up."
Led by Isaiah Thomas and some key baskets by reserve Scott Suggs, Romar got the kind of response he wanted. Thomas and Justin Holiday both scored 20 points, Suggs hit two key 3-pointers midway through the second half, and No. 21 Washington held off a strong challenge from Portland in a 94-72 victory Monday night.
For the first time this season the Huskies were challenged at home in the second half, watching Portland trim a comfortable double-digit lead down to six with 8:25 remaining.
And unlike the Maui Invitational when Washington dropped close games against Kentucky and Michigan State, this was the first time the Huskies had let a safe lead slip away.
For a team yet to play a true road game this season, Romar could not have asked for a better challenge posed to his team.
"I like what we had to do in this game and what we learned about ourselves," Romar said.
Suggs provided the first answer, hitting a 3-pointer from in front of the Huskies bench. He added another 3 after Matthew Bryan-Amaning dived to keep a loose ball alive and Bryan-Amaning punctuated the run with a fastbreak dunk.
When it was over, the Huskies had scored 11 straight points and again were comfortably in front. Bryan-Amaning, who was benched after the Maui Invitational, added 15 points for Washington (6-2), while Suggs finished with 13 in just 18 minutes.
Thomas led Washington with seven rebounds and had four assists.
"We've got a lot of weapons and if one guy isn't doing the job another will come in and do it," Thomas said. "A lot o people stepped up today when we needed it."
Nemanja Mitrovic led Portland (7-3) with 15 points, all on 3-pointers. Luke Sikma, son of former Seattle SuperSonics star Jack Sikma, had 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Pilots. Jared Stohl, Portland's leading scorer, finished with 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Portland had won three straight and its only losses this season were to Kentucky and Washington State, whose only loss is to Kansas State.
"Luckily for us, we can shoot the ball well and that allowed us to stay in the game," Portland coach Eric Reveno said. "It is really hard to slow them down and to stop them from getting possessions."
The rare Monday night game created a mellow atmosphere at normally buzzing Hec Edmundson Pavilion, but that didn't slow down the Huskies' scoring pace very much.
Washington, the highest scoring and best 3-point shooting team in the country, hadn't scored less than 98 points in any of its previous four home games this season-all blowouts decided early in the second half.
This one appeared headed for another rout when Venoy Overton scored on a a challenged runner in the lane, then came up with a steal leading to Bryan-Amaning's fastbreak dunk to push Washington's lead to 16 with 11 minutes left.
And just as quickly, the Pilots came back. Mitrovic hit a 3-pointer and Bryan-Amaning was called for a foul on the rebound. Portland got back possession and
Mitrovic hit another 3 for a rare six-point play. Sikma then scored on consecutive possessions and the lead was down to six.
Suggs' first 3-pointer started the Huskies final push and he made hit three 3-pointers in the final 8 minutes. The Huskies shot 13 of 23 from behind the arc, above their season average of 46 percent entering the game.
"The difference with this Washington team is that anybody can really score the ball. You can't lie off of a shooter or the post and expect to stop them, because they can score from anywhere," Reveno said. "The biggest challenge is that we defend really well for a possession, and then they hit a 3. We usually do that to teams, but people know who the 3-point shooters are and they can stop them. With Washington it can be anyone."
The Pilots were Washington's final home tuneup before the Huskies' one true road game during the non-conference slate, this Saturday at Texas A&M. The Huskies' only other games away from home so far were at the Maui Invitational.