The final score was No. 22 Washington (6-2) 94, Portland (7-3) 72.
In a first half marred by fouls and Portland’s focus on controlling the free-scoring Husky pace, the action never really took off.
“They tried to slow us up. As guards we tried to figure it out when we should have just been highly aggressive,” said UW junior co-captain Isaiah Thomas.
Also contributing to their inability to pull away was Portland seemingly answering every Husky big-play with a momentum draining three.
Portland was not to be easily vanquished. They fought back with a 9-5 run before back-to-back buckets by Washington's Venoy Overton and Matthew Bryan-Amaning re-inflated the UW lead to 16 at the 10:50 mark of the game and forced Portland head coach Eric Reveno to take a timeout.
The Pilots proved resilient again, as perpetual thorn in the Husky fur Nemanja Mitrovic, who ignited Portland's second-half comeback with two three-pointers at the beginning of the period, again hit back to back triples - the first coming at the same time as Justin Holiday fouled UP's Luke Sikma fighting for rebounding position, and the second coming on the ensuing possession, capping essentially a 6-point play.
Sikma cut the lead to six with two unanswered layups, making it 68-62 Huskies with 8:25 to play in the game.
A Scott Suggs corner three finally broke the Dawgs’ near three-minute scoring drought and pushed the lead to 71-62 after Bryan-Amaning dove to keep an Isaiah Thomas miss alive.
“It was huge,” said Thomas of the play. “Matt got on the ground on a hustle play and I found Scott. It was a huge play.”
Suggs hit another bomb, this time from straight-away to make it 75-62 as the Huskies really turned up the defensive pressure.
“I thought our guys did a really good job when they came back and made their run, buckling down and doing a better job defensively,” said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar.
The Huskies went on an 11-0 run after Portland trimmed their lead to six, forcing two turnovers. A Derrick Rodgers and-1 stopped the bleeding for the Pilots and his floater in the lane made it 81-69 going into the final TV timeout with 3:46 left in the game.
But Suggs sealed the game with his third three with 3:24 remaining, and the Pilots had nothing left in their tank. Suggs' 13 points is a season-high. He scored 11 each in Washington's wins over St. Martin's and McNeese State.
"It all starts with their defense," UP Head Coach Eric Reveno said after the game. "When you combine that athleticism and so many guys coming in waves, it does have an effect and wear you down."
But the Pilots battled, and battled from the opening tip. After Bryan-Amaning made the score 17-9 on a pretty baseline spin move, Portland's leading scorer, Jared Stohl - also the nation’s leading three-point shooter with 31 makes on the season - responded with a corner trey.
Similarly, after Bryan-Amaning dished to a cutting Justin Holiday for an emphatic slam to put the Dawgs up 25-16 with 8:55 left before halftime, Mitrovic’s three-pointer cut the lead back to six. Stohl struck again after a Terrance Ross three to cut UW’s lead down to four.
However, that would be the closest Portland would get to matching UW in the first half, as Ross, who ended up playing only four minutes due to a leg injury, spurred a 16-5 run.
After snagging a long Stohl miss, Isaiah Thomas pushed the ball then dumped it off to the freshman from Jefferson High in Portland for a two-handed slam to make it 39-28.
Isaiah picked things up from there, scoring UW’s final seven points of the half, including a driving, sprawling layup with just seconds remaining in the period to give UW its halftime margin of 46-31 and giving him 13 for the half, one behind team leader Justin Holiday, who was 3-4 beyond the arc.
Holiday was fouled hard going up for a fast-break dunk with 1:36 left by Ryan Nicholas, resulting in an intentional foul call, but he got up and knocked down both free throws before being pulled from the game.
“He’s a young guy, doesn’t play much, when he gets in he wants to paly hard," Holiday said of Nicholas. "He’s going to play hard and try to stop me from scoring, that’s all it was.”
The Huskies had a balanced scoring day, with four scorers in double digits, paced by co-captains Thomas and Holiday with 20. All the players, save the walk-ons, got on the score sheet, as they continued to shoot the lights out, going 13-23 from three-point range. They shot 53.4 percent from the field overall and 70.4 percent from the line.
Terrence Ross, who scored five points in four minutes during the first half, was left out of the second half because of a stress reaction to nerves along the side of one of his legs. The injury is not expected to keep the frosh guard from Portland out long, according to Romar.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” said Thomas. “A lot of people stepped up today when we needed it and we played real well. I looked up and we were up a lot, then I looked up and we were only up six, and then we won by 22. So it didn’t feel like the other wins.”
While Thomas continued his struggles from the line, going 5-for-9, he did manage to pull down seven rebounds to lead the team and propel them to a 35-28 edge on the boards.
Sikma was a handful for the Pilots, finishing with 14 points and 16 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the young season. “[He’s] a really good basketball player," Romar said of Sikma. "It’s been fun to see him grow and develop.” Sikma's father is former Seattle Sonic legend Jack Sikma.
Mitrovic led the Pilots with 15 points on 5-10 three-balls, while Stohl and Tim Douglas both finished with 12.
Points: Holiday 20, Thomas 20, Bryan-Amaning 15, Suggs 13, Gaddy 8, Wilcox 6, Ross 5, Gant 3, N'Diaye 2
Rebounds: Thomas 7, Holiday 6, Bryan-Amaning 6, N'Diaye 5, Gant 3, Gaddy 3, Overton 2, Suggs 2, Hosley 1, TEAM 1
Assists: Gaddy 6, Thomas 4, Overton 4, Bryan-Amaning 2, Holiday 1, Gant 1, N'Diaye 1, Wilcox 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 1, Wilcox 1
Steals: Overton 3, Bryan-Amaning 3, Holiday 1, N'Diaye 1