CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Washington has proven to be tournament tough under coach Lorenzo Romar.
The Huskies are suddenly the hot team after winning the Pac-10 tournament, and for the second season in a row -- following a much-maligned regular season -- Washington is poised to make a possible run to the Sweet 16. Washington had to travel further than any other team this weekend and pulled off a 68-65 win over a taller, and what appeared to be a stronger Georgia team.
A year ago, Washington went to San Jose and reached the Sweet 16 in Syracuse. The Huskies haven’t always represented the Pac-10 well in the non-conference the past few seasons, but have found the right mix in the postseason to be quite a pest.
Washington looked like it could have been in trouble early against Georgia and had to scrap for a tie game at the half. But the Huskies were able to use their defense to start the break and continued to be the aggressor at the offensive end as Georgia’s offense sputtered.
Georgia hung tough in the final few minutes, pushing Washington to the final possession and forcing the Huskies to make free throws.
Star player: Washington’s Isaiah Thomas has taken over games in the past month. He took and made the shot to beat Arizona at the buzzer in the Pac-10 tourney final. And it was Thomas who was the difference once again for Washington, making shots to silence Georgia runs and energize the Huskies. He finished with 19 points and seven assists.
Welcome back? Washington’s suspended guard Venoy Overton, who missed the Pac-10 tournament for serving alcohol to a minor, gave the Huskies a stable presence off the bench and scored a key basket in the final two minutes to stretch the lead to 10. Romar said that he was going to use Overton (six points, four rebounds) off the bench and it gave the second unit an infusion.
Key stat: I found it rather odd that Washington was able to win this game despite shooting six more 3s than Georgia. The Bulldogs played smart and kept the game in the half court offensively while the Huskies were jacking up too many shots. A difference for the Huskies ended up being the ability to hang with the Bulldogs on the boards. Washington got spirited rebounding from Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Aziz N'Diaye and to some extent Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday. The Husky guards also rebounded well.
What’s next: Washington plays North Carolina in an intriguing third-round game Sunday at 12:15 p.m. at the Time Warner Cable Arena. The Huskies would love to run with the Tar Heels. That’s more their game. Sunday's contest has the makings of being similar to the Huskies' close games with Arizona within the past month.