Men's hoops loses to Washington
Matthew Bryan-Amaning knew how many points he had and felt as though Washington should be running away from Arizona State in the closing minutes, only to look up and realize the Sun Devils were threatening to ruin his career day.
Thanks to a closing punch from Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas, the No. 20 Huskies are off to their best conference start in nearly a quarter-century.
"When it happens like that, you have to realize time and situation," Bryan-Amaning said. "Then we were able to just pull away at the end."
Bryan-Amaning carried the Huskies with a career-high 30 points, Thomas slowed Arizona State leading scorer Ty Abbott in the second half and Washington pulled away late for an 88-75 victory Saturday.
Thomas still did his part offensively, finishing with 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds, as Washington (15-4) improved to 7-1 in Pac-10 play, it's best start since the 1986-87 season. Thomas knifed for a pair of driving layups in the last 4 minutes and closed his day with a flailing three-point play in the final minute.
While this wasn't the blowout most have expected from Washington at home, the Huskies could benefit from more wins like this in which they're forced to make plays late. Bryan-Amaning and Thomas combined for eight straight points in the final few minutes, then watched Scott Suggs hit a big 3-pointer off an assist from Thomas to push the Huskies' lead to eight with 1:08 left.
Thomas wasn't able to continue his impressive run after posting consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 assists as he did in the Huskies' previous two wins over California at Arizona. According to STATS LLC, Thomas was the first player in Division I since Northeastern's Jose Juan Barea in February 2006 to post back-to-back games with at least 20 points and 10 assists.
Thomas finished two assists shy of being the first player in Washington history with three straight games of 10 or more assists.
"We knew it was going to be a little letdown coming into this game because it wasn't as hyped as last game, but at the same time we showed that we can win games like this," Thomas said. "Day in and day out we've got to get better to win games like this."
Thomas' main contribution came at the defensive end where he was assigned to harass Abbott for most of the second half. Abbott scored 11 of his 13 first-half points in the final 10 minutes, keeping the Sun Devils (9-10, 1-6) within 40-39 at the break.
In the second half, Abbott got off just six shots and made only two - one on goaltending. Trent Lockett did his part to try and make up for the lack of scoring, matching Abbott with 20 points including 11 in the second half, but the Sun Devils dropped their fifth straight conference game.
Carrick Felix, Arizona State's second-leading scorer in conference play, finished with just five points after missing the previous game against Washington State due to illness
"We are going to keep working and be resilient. We have high character guys who are going to show up ready for battle," Sendek said. "We have a lot of guys who are learning how to compete in tough games, but it is hard to compete when you still have guys that look like deer in the headlights. As our guys learn what it takes I think we will continue to get better."
While Abbott cooled off in the second half, Bryan-Amaning continued to carry the Huskies offense. He slammed a fast-break lob from Thomas and hit his first three shots. When he did miss, Darnell Gant's tip gave Washington an eight-point lead with 11 minutes left, its largest of the game.
But Washington couldn't shake the Sun Devils. Lockett's free throws on consecutive possessions got Arizona State within 62-60 with 7:35 left and a few moments later, Rihards Kuksiks' 3-pointer pulled the Sun Devils even at 63-all.
C.J. Wilcox answered with a 3 and Venoy Overton's run-out basket put the Huskies up five, only to see Abbott hit a 3 from the corner and Lockett score on a baseline reverse to keep Arizona State within 70-68.
Suggs' 3 served as the final capper, as Bryan-Amaning made 11 of 16 shots and all eight of his free throws.
"They kind of had us hesitating, but once we settled down I think we were just able to do a great job," Bryan-Amaning said.