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January 22, 2011Matthew Bryan-Amaning noticed an opportunity and seized it.
The Washington Huskies forward wasted little time taking advantage of the smaller front court of Arizona State Saturday in a Pacific-10 Conference game at Alaska Airlines Arena in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Less than eight minutes into the game, the 6-foot-9 senior had already scored in double figures. He continued to dominate and finished with a career-high 30 points to go with nine rebounds, leading the Huskies to an 88-75 victory over the Sun Devils.
"Coach told us there was going to be a lot of one-on-one coverage and I should be able to get open tonight so that's what we tried to do," Bryan-Amaning said. "I love (one-on-one coverage). As long as I keep doing what I'm supposed to do and make some space for myself, I'll be open to get the ball."
Now a senior, Bryan-Amaning has shown his development as a legitimate low-post scorer with more composure and patience with the ball. He was able to punish the Sun Devils for not bringing more help defensively and work one-on-one.
"I don't think he tries to rush it as much," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He is trying to focus a little more to go to the basket, as opposed to falling away. He has grown up and it has really helped him."
Isaiah Thomas continued to dazzle with 19 points and eight assists and the Huskies stayed atop the Pac-10 with a 7-1 conference mark and 15-4 record overall.
Washington will enjoy a little time off before it takes on in-state rival Washington State next Sunday in Pullman.
Maybe the most impressive play from Bryan-Amaning came on a fastbreak one-handed slam on an alley-oop pass from Thomas that initially looked too high for him to reach.
"You all forget I got a 7-foot wingspan," Bryan-Amaning said with a smile. "If it's behind me I'm going to go find it."
Still, despite the heroics by Bryan-Amaning and Thomas, the Huskies had a hard time putting the Sun Devils (9-10, 1-6) away at Hec Ed.
Arizona State was able to keep the game close throughout relying on solid outside shooting, as the Sun Devils shot 60 percent from 3-point range (9 of 15). Ty Abbott, who finished with 20 points along with teammate Trent Lockett, was the key for Arizona State in the first half connecting on all three of his 3-pointers. But the second half was a different story as the Huskies were able to slow him down with the defense of Thomas.
"This year, guys that he (Thomas) defends, he is so good at just taking them out of the game," Romar said. "I don't think we would have won the game if he didn't guard Abbott in the second half."
As freshman, Thomas wasn't known for his defense, but with his play Saturday against the Sun Devils, Thomas displayed his maturity and improvement on the defensive end by shutting down Abbott in the second half.
"He should be on the all-defensive team," Romar said. "He has played that good of defense for us."
Arizona State used a unique zone defense approach with three perimeter defenders that seemed to give the Huskies some problems operating on the offensive end. With the exception of Bryan-Amaning and Thomas, several Husky players had a difficult time finding ways to score.
"They're a good team and that 3-2 zone gives us a little bit of trouble," Thomas said. "It took the whole game to get through it."
The Huskies were finally able to put Arizona State away late in the second half when Scott Suggs hit a 3-pointer off of a nice pass from Thomas that extended the Huskies lead to 81-73 with 1:12 remaining.
"He (Thomas) is doing a great job of getting guys to come to him and kicking it to the open man," said Suggs, who started for the third game in row and finished with 10 points. "A couple of times he found me and I just shot it."
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