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November 14, 2009

Huskies defeat Wright State in uneven start to season

The Huskies defeated Wright State tonight, 74-69, at Bank of America Arena in the opener to the 2009/2010 season.

The least you should know:

The night belonged to Isaiah Thomas, who scored 30 points, including 18 in the first half. Had he not been so single-handedly dominant early on, the crowd might've seen a true nail-biter tonight.

As it was, the Huskies struggled mightily on the offensive end for most of the second half, but time ran out on a solid Wright State team that just wouldn't go away.

The Huskies looked weakest inside, struggling to finish near the rim, and with the same amount of rebounds as Wright State, each team pulling down 29 boards.

The narrative

Isaiah Thomas dominated Wright State in the first half, and 20 minutes in, he and his Husky teammates held a comfortable twelve-point lead. But, it took an all-hands-on-deck effort in the game's final minutes to hold off the Raiders and preserve a 74-69 Husky victory in their season opener at Bank of America Arena Friday night.

The Huskies played solidly, if not spectacularly early on, outscoring Wright State 40-28 in the first half. Thomas was electric, putting up 18 points before halftime, and Scott Suggs had his most productive half as a Husky with seven points.

The Huskies had their biggest lead of the night, 18 points, three minutes into the second half. But, Wright State whittled the lead down, finally cutting it to six with about five minutes left, behind a 21-point performance from guard, Todd Brown.

"In the second half, we started to maybe shoot the ball quick," Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "During that stretch, we kind of forced things offensively. And, we kind of let down. . .Brown got hot. We gave him a couple of open looks and he just started feeling it."

It looked like Thomas would shatter his career-high in points after netting 18 in the first half, but it took until the final minute of the game, when he hit a free throw, to eclipse his previous best of 27 points. "Coach told me, day in and day out we're gonna lean on me to score a little bit more," Thomas said.

Thomas finished the night with a new career-high of 30 points, but the Huskies struggled to find an alternate scoring option. "As we get into the season, we're gonna find out who's who, and who's gonna score. . . I think scoring 30 points probably wouldn't be great every game," he said.

Wright State outshot the Huskies late in the game, hitting on 15 of their 29 shots in the second half. The Huskies meanwhile muddled through their offense, only hitting on eight of their 19 attempts in the second, and shooting 22-52 (42.3%) for the game.

Quincy Pondexter scored six of his 12 points in the final four-and-a-half minutes, to finish strong on what was a mostly uneven performance to start to his senior season. Pondexter finished with 9 rebounds and three steals, turning the ball over twice. "I struggled a lot of the game today. I was missing shots I never usually miss. I knew for our team to win, down the stretch we had to score a lot of points in the paint," Pondexter said.

Each team pulled down 29 rebounds lending some credence to the notion that a major theme of this season will be how the Huskies plan to replace the graduated Jon Brockman's rebounding.

While the margin of victory might've been closer than expected, Romar was happy with his team's effort overall. "It's a great, great game for us," he said.

"Coming into the game, we knew that they weren't going to give up. They're a veteran team. They're a very good team. . . That wasn't a gimme game right there. They're a tough team," Pondexter said.

Observations and Analysis:

It's hard to see how Coach could call anything "great" about tonight. It wasn't awful, but if not for the huge night from Isaiah, this one could've easily gone the other way.

Speaking of Isaiah: Wow. His first half was a thing of beauty. The added muscle he put on in the off-season has made him "super-absorbent," and he's essentially able to take anything the defense can dish out on his way to basket and still get up a good shot.

It may sound obvious, but the signs were everywhere tonight: This team is going to struggle without Jon Brockman. Wright State wasn't a particularly good rebounding team, the Huskies just failed to get to a lot of balls they should've had.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning looked about the same as last season, and had very little visible influence on the game. He didn't manage a rebound in twelve minutes in the first half, and finished with only three.

Still not sure where I net out on the point guard play. Combined Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy 's stat line looks like this: 11 points (on 4-10 shooting), four assists, six turnovers, four steals. On the night, Venoy was definitely better than Abdul, particularly on defense, where Gaddy is still out of sync.

Scott Suggs had his best game as a Husky, but I'm still not convinced he should be on the floor for 18 minutes in any game, particular during crunch time, as he was tonight.

Elston Turner didn't look good at all, picking up two fouls, and not doing much else, in 10 minutes. He was the only Husky not to score.


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