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January 23, 2011

Washington's Thomas no longer one-dimensional

"He should be on the all-defensive team," Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar said following the Huskies' 88-75 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday.

The 'he' that coach Romar was talking about is junior guard Isaiah Thomas.

The same Isaiah Thomas who admitted in the past he didn't even play defense in high school.

"I didn't play defense," Thomas said while laughing about playing basketball at Curtis High School near Tacoma. "I played offense and outlet and gimme the ball, so it was like four on five."

Romar talked about the first round of the NCAA tournament last season when at halftime Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom was hurting the Huskies with his offense.

"Let me take him please!" Thomas told Romar at the time. So Romar put Thomas on Odom.

"I remember, the guy barely touched the ball the second half of the game," Romar said.

Against Arizona State Saturday afternoon, a similar situation occurred. Only this time, Thomas didn't have to ask if he could play defense.

Ty Abbott scored 13 points in the first half, including a perfect three for three on 3-point shots.

"Abbott was playing so well and the game was close," said Romar. He knew that he had to make a halftime adjustment in order to stop Abbott.

That adjustment was to have the 5-foot-9 Thomas defend the 6-3 Abbott the rest of the game.

"Coach told me 'you guard him, you shut him down,' and I take pride in guarding the best player on the opposing team, so I did my best to try to slow him down," Thomas said.

Thomas shut down Abbott in the second half, only allowing him to score seven points to go with zero assists. Abbott also only made one of his four 3-point attempts in the second half.

"I tried to limit his touches, every great player needs the ball, so if you limit his touches that's half the battle," Thomas said. "I tried to stay with him, contest every shot and be right there."

"I don't think we win that game if he didn't guard Abbott in the second half," Romar said.

Thomas attributes his success on the defensive side in part to getting stronger and quicker, but there is more to it than just the physical aspect.

"It's about just going out there and doing it, having the will to play defense," Thomas said.

Thomas also added that he has "learned a lot from Venoy (Overton), and I try to be like him a little bit."

Overton, a defensive standout for the Huskies, was on the first-team All-Pac-10 Defensive team last season.

The Huskies have a great scorer on their schedule next week when they travel to Pullman to take on Washington State University. Junior Klay Thompson is averaging 22.9 points per game for the Cougars.

Last season, Thompson struggled against the Huskies, scoring just 12 points in two games combined.

It is unknown at this point who will defend Thompson. However, one thing is for sure, Thomas won't be backing down from the chance to guard the much taller Thompson.


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