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January 16, 2010

Red hot Huskies down Cal 84-69

The Huskies (3-3, 12-5 overall) defeated the Cal Bears (3-2, 11-6 overall), 84-69, at Hec Edmonson Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

The least you should know:

Very similar start to Thursday night's game -- the Huskies came out and dominated early, taking a 33-12 lead in the first 11 minutes, never looking back, and cruising the rest of the way.

The Huskies had their most complete defensive effort of the season, forcing Cal into 22 turnovers, and holding them to 33% shooting. Cal's biggest star, Jerome Randle finished with five points and eight turnovers.

Quincy Pondexter scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half, and led the Huskies to a 50-31 halftime lead.

The narrative:

The three straight losses preceding this week's games will stay on the Huskies permanent record no matter what they do. But, less than 48 hours after dismantling Stanford by 33 points, the Dawgs turned the page once and for all.

A triumphant, all-around defensive effort on Saturday brought the Washington Huskies what could be considered their first "signature" win of the season, 84-69, over Cal.

"I was really embarrassed. I never thought our team would be what it was in those three games," said Quincy Pondexter, who finished with 25 points and five rebounds.

"(This win) just says we're really capable of doing a lot of things this season, still," said Pondexter.

Pondexter scored 10 and Isaiah Thomas scored nine during a 26-4 run first half run that allowed the Huskies to build a 33-12 lead with 9:03 remaining from which they never looked back.

"I think we did a really good job with our defensive pressure this entire weekend," said Husky coach Lorenzo Romar. "I think maybe that was one of the biggest improvements that we've made."

Senior guard Jerome Randle, came in averaging 20.4 points per game, but was held to his season low with five points, and forced into a season-high eight turnovers. Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 20 points, was responsible for guarding Randle for much of the game.

"It's easy to overlook it, but this is the second game in a row where Isaiah Thomas has played stellar defense," Romar said.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who's lost his starting role in recent games, had an energetic effort against Cal, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds.

"Less more for Matthew," Romar said. "For the most part he just played within himself, and that's what I'm looking for."

The Huskies held three of Cal's four talented seniors -- Jamal Boykin (six points), Theo Robertson (seven points), and Randle -- well below their season averages in avenging the two losses from last season.

Patrick Christopher had 28 points for Cal in the loss.

Analysis and observations:

For a moment after the game, before any of the other Pac-10 scores came in, the entire conference was within one game of first place -- each team with either two or three wins and two or three losses. The Huskies will thank their lucky stars that no team got off to a very hot start if they're able to claw their way back to the top of the conference.

Cal shot 50 free throws on 29 Husky fouls. The Huskies, though, managed 74 field goal attempts to 48 for the Bears.

Tyreese Breshers had a great sequence under the hoop which eventually resulted in a basket. He put up four or five shots against a trio of Cal defenders, grabbing the rebound each time, and eventually getting the ball to fall through the hoop. Very tough play by Breshers.

Justin Holiday had a quietly efficient 20 minutes in his second start: six points on 3-4 shooting, two rebounds, zero turnovers.

This looked like one that was just in the cards from the early going. Even in the first five minutes, when the score was even, it was clear that all Cal had working was Patrick Christopher, whereas the Huskies looked in control of everything else.

Cal's 22 turnovers were, by far, their most this season. Again, the Huskies force 20+ turnovers and they win decisively.

Next up for the Dawgs, at UCLA on Thursday night at 7:30. The Huskies that showed up Saturday are clearly capable of accomplishing a sweep in southern California.


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