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February 12, 2011

Thomas sparks Washington to payback win

There's no place like home for the Washington Huskies.

The Huskies looked as if they were a completely different team in Saturday's rematch against the Stanford Cardinal. After losing by a basket to Stanford on the road a month ago, the Huskies dominated the Cardinal at Hec Edmundson Pavilion Saturday night, leading by as much as 21 points in the second half before winning by a final score of 87-76.

Isaiah Thomas was once again the story for the Huskies, leading the team with 22 points, including 4-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Thomas also provided the leadership the team needed as he gathered the team together on the floor to deliver a message.

"I said, 'This is our house, nobody is coming in here and getting easy wins,'" Thomas said. "We've just got to defend home court."

Washington improved to 13-0 at home this season and boosted its overall record to 17-7 and Pacific-10 Conference mark to 9-4.

After getting off to a cold shooting start, and having to go to the locker room after getting poked in the eye, Thomas got it going on the offensive end. Thomas scored his first points of the game on a 3-pointer with only 2:38 left in the first half, then proceeded to knock down three more from the beyond the arc, finishing with 14 first-half points. Thomas had a fiery look in his eyes, and was playing like nobody could stop him at that point.

"They (the Cardinal) made me mad," said Thomas. "They were talking a little bit. I felt like I just had to turn it up to end the half. My shots were going in. My teammates were finding me."

The Huskies were able to use the momentum from Thomas' offensive outburst to take a 48-31 lead into halftime. But Stanford outscored Washington in the second half, as the Huskies seemed to lose some of the energy they displayed in the first half.

"Isaiah got hot at the end of the half, knocked some shots down and we were able to distance ourselves," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar/db] said. "The second half, we just couldn't get that energy up to the level we had in the first half. We didn't finish that game like I would have liked."

The Huskies got some unexpected offensive support from [db]Aziz N'Diaye who finished with nine points and six rebounds after getting more playing time in the second half as Matthew Bryan-Amaning found himself in foul trouble in the second half.

Senior guard Venoy Overton also stepped up big for the Huskies on Saturday. Overton, who averages only 5.2 points per game, finished with 12 points and four assists on the night.

"During the losing streak, we were just depending on just Isaiah, Matt (Bryan-Amaning) and Holiday to score a lot of points," said Overton, "Myself, just trying to step up a little bit, that's going to make us a better team."

Thomas did not hesitate to mention the importance of Overton's performance on Saturday, and how he helped the team come away with a win.

"When he (Overton) comes into the game he brings so much energy and it hypes us up," said Thomas. "He's just bringing energy and we need that from him. It's helping everybody."

UW again did a commendable job on the defensive end of the floor, forcing 19 turnovers on Stanford and causing the Cardinal to take tough shots. Jeremy Green was the main offensive threat for Stanford, and he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds.

The Huskies will need to feed off their success at home this week, as a vital road trip to Arizona next week will test just how far this team has come since their three-game losing streak.

"This will probably the hardest road trip. There's two good teams down there," said Thomas, "We've got to really be focused and dialed in on the defensive end, and I think if we do that, we'll be OK."


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