It says something about Isaiah Thomas’s shooting eye that even when he was seeing double, he was hitting triples.
The Washington Huskies junior guard had one of his most compact, prolific scoring streaks of his college career Saturday, scoring 14 points including four threes in a row in a 2 minute, 37-second span to end the first half in an 87-76 victory over Stanford.
One player did most of the damage in the 17-6 run to a 17-point halftime lead that decided the game. The Huskies maintained the cushion through all but the final minute as the Huskies swept the week after beating Cal Thursday, 109-77.
That spurt was not your garden-variety IT surge. Thomas, who finished with a team-high 22 points, had all sorts of problems until he found his touch.
He had a running, chippy conversation with Stanford’s Jeremy Green, who finished with 24 points. Two banks of lights in Hec Ed Pavilion went out early in the game, perhaps thanks to a windstorm pounding the area, but the teams continued to play under reduced brightness.
At the 12:53 mark as Thomas was dashing to cover Green, he ran his face into teammate Darnell Gant‘s finger. That blurred vision in his left eye. He sat down for four minutes.
I just got hit and it was real bad,” Thomas said.
His words real bad. Not good. That was enough to set off alarms up and down the Husky bench.
Thomas is indispensable. He gets everyone involved as the Pac-10 leader in assists and the team leader in points. He hits the big shots. He provides much of the energy, intensity, leadership and trash talk.
If he couldn’t go, that would have been a major hit. But he was given medical clearance and returned with eight minutes left.
I seen two of everything,” he said, smiling.
Given two targets, he picked the correct one for five shots in a row, including his string of treys.
I don’t know how they went in,” he added.
Until then he had been 0-for-4 with no points until he hit a three-pointer at 2:37 to give the Huskies (17-7, 9-4 Pac-10) a 34-25 lead. He stayed in rhythm and helped the Huskies to a 48-31 lead at the break.
As the Huskies were leaving the court, he pointed to the floor and told his teammates, This is our house. No one comes in here and gets easy wins. We just have to defend on the court. It woke our guys up and we played a little harder.”
Clearly, Thomas has a vision for his team.
He’s still pushing for the Pac-10 title, a prospect that took three steps back on the road with the losing streak. But the Huskies returned to Hec Ed and are now 13-0 this season on the home court.
Overall, the Huskies have won 14 consecutive home games by 10 points or more, the longest such streak in the venerable arena’s history.
They did it with the energy of Thomas and Venoy Overton, who had a season-high 12 points and four assists, along with more aggressive play from center Aziz N’Diaye, who had nine points, three blocks and was a fierce defensive force.
That’s the way it is at home. The Huskies find energy and focus elusive on the road. But in the second half, the road showed up again, discouraging UW coach Lorenzo Romar. He said the first game Thursday and the first half against Stanford was Husky style basketball. That’s where it ended.
The fourth half was not as good,” Romar said. Isaiah got hot at the end of the half, knocked some shots down, and we were able to distance ourselves. The second half, we just couldnt distance ourselves, couldnt get that energy up to that level we had in the first half. We didnt finish that game like I would have liked.”
Energy will be what the Huskies will need Thursday at Arizona State. Then comes the biggest conference all season Saturday in Tucson with Pac-10 leader Arizona (20-4, 9-2). The Wildcats play at ASU Sunday.
The Huskies head to the desert restored, a much more confident team coming off that three-game malaise. It’s a team that finally handled the zone defenses expertly. The offense was efficient, 46 assists on 73 shots, better three-point shooting (45 percent) and more dribble penetration. Defensively, they had 16 blocks and 10 steals in the two games.
I just think the other things are by-products of the defensive energy, and energy in general,” Romar said. I think because you have that energy, you just shoot the ball better; you are just a little more crisp offensively. I think it all works together.”
The Huskies also seem to have a healthier, improved Overton. He played 24 and 23 minutes and had a combined 20 points, 11 assists, two turnovers and a pair of steals.
I think it started in practice. Ive been playing really well in practice and really going hard,” said Overton, who has had hamstring, knee and tailbone injuries this season. My legs are back, so thats nice. In the Oregon game (Saturday) I was getting up there high, and it felt good. I knew I was feeling better. I felt like this week was going to be the week that I could bump it up and coaches let me play.”
He brings an added element to the desert games, a guy who is the usual menace on defense but also an adept ball-handler and playmaker alongside Thomas.
Two good guards and two good Isaiah eyes could make the difference.