The win for the Huskies (18-7, 10-4) sets up a massive game for Pac-10 bragging rights Saturday at Arizona, who beat Washington State Thursday night 79-70.
"I would say this is a big game," Romar said of the Huskies' win. "Because the next one is always your bigger one. And always say like, Arizona State, if we lose this… that became a big game. For whatever reason, it’s huge. And Arizona is leading our league right now, and they’re playing very good basketball, they’re playing at home, this is our last game on the road in the Pac-10, there is a lot at stake on our end, we’re trying to get to the NCAA tournament.
"This is a very big game. “
With that carrot dangling in the distance, it was important for UW to keep their cool and take care of business on the road against the Sun Devils (10-15, 1-12), clearly an inferior opponent on paper, but every road game can cause problems.
“It was very important," UW guard Venoy Overton said after the game about the mindset the Huskies had to take coming into this road trip. "We talked about it before the game. We couldn’t think ahead, we had to get through these guys first, and then we would take care of the next thing. We came out ready to play tonight.”
Thursday's game started out no differently, as ASU was determined to keep the tempo at their desired pace. They were successful through the first 5:48, as a Ty Abbott laying pushed the home team's advantage to 15-7.
Abbott led Arizona State with 15 points, but all but two of those points were scored in the first 11:18 of the opening half. Much like what he did in the first meeting between the two teams, UW's Isaiah Thomas spearheaded the effort to close Abbott down. They were successful as a team in only allowing Abbott three shot attempts in the second half.
After that, Washington closed him down, going into a zone to dare the Devils to shoot. ASU did not have one of their sharpshooters, Rihards Kuksiks, available for the game.
"We got kind of stagnant and I was kind of standing, trying to wait and watch the action, trying to figure out where to cut and thing like that because we were not very fluid with our game tonight," Abbott said. "We just stood around and watched each other.
Romar's move seemed to befuddle ASU, who were only down three points at the time. UW used eight and nine-point runs to take a 10-point lead at halftime, and then extended after a 10-0 run gave them a 59-42 margin. Arizona State would never recover.
"We really didn't prepare for a zone. Playing them, they're a man-to-man team every night, so that was not something we worked on much at all this week."
In the end, the Huskies were able to pull away because of their tactics, as well as how they attacked ASU's zone. They fed it inside to Bryan-Amaning, and also passed it around to get great looks on the perimeter. It was a comprehensive effort.
"We had problems at the end of other games against a zone because we weren’t executing the right way, doing the things we are supposed to," said UW forward Justin Holiday, who finished the game with nine points. "So when we are executing the correct way, you see what happened tonight—we get ball reversals, assists, going inside and outside, and then everything seems to flow better that way.”
Despite being down by as many as 21 points in the second half, Herb Sendek's crew wouldn't go down fighting. UW's Thomas and ASU's Abbott were again the focus of the action, as both were assessed technical fouls, as well as the ASU bench, stemming from an incident where Thomas was clearly unhappy about some elbows that were being thrown around on screens by ASU big man Kyle Cain. Thomas let him know about it, and then Abbott came in to offer up his assessment of the situation.
Sun Devil Assistant Coach Dedrique Taylor had to be restrained by players and coaches while the ASU team technical foul was assessed. The referees went back to look at tape of the incident, and also had their own conference, but the public address didn't announce their findings until it was told to media minutes later.
“It was [Kyle] Cain that hit me," Thomas said. "They called a foul on [him] and I went to run after him just to let him know, ‘don’t do that again’. When I was talking it out he acted like I wasn’t even there, just ran through me. It was no biggy. I just wanted to let him know not to do it again. It was when he was setting his screens - he was kind of setting them illegal. It is what it is, it was no biggy.”
Wilcox was a main reason for the Huskies' offensive outburst, playing extended minutes after Scott Suggs strained his MCL at the 16:47 mark of the first half. The redshirt frosh's stat line was impressive: 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and no turnovers.
“He is an unbelievable weapon, on the basketball floor," Romar said of Wilcox. "And when that weapon is going good, you have to feed it, you have to load it, keep it loaded, because he can rattle off six or seven of those things, if he gets it going. We’ve seen him do it. When that happened, you have to be aware on the floor to find him, and he has to be aware—he usually is aware when he’s hot, so we don’t have to tell him to shoot.”
Points: Bryan-Amaning 22, Wilcox 16, Thomas 11, Overton 10, Holiday 9, N'Diaye 5, Gant 4, Ross 2
Rebounds: Bryan-Amaning 12, Overton 8, Wilcox 8, Thomas 4, TEAM 4, N'Diaye 3, Gant 3, Holiday 2, Ross 1
Assists: Thomas 6, Overton 5, Bryan-Amaning 3, Wilcox 3, Ross 2, Holiday 1, Gant 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 4, N'Diaye 2, Ross 2, Holiday 1, Ross 1
Steals: Overton 1, Ross 1