Venoy Overton (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
Make no mistake; tonight was Venoy Overton’s night. The former Franklin high star, shredded Arizona's interior defense, while making life miserable for their freshmen sensation, Jerryd Bayless, on the defensive end. Overton's efforts helped propel the Washington Huskies to a big 75-66 win at Bank of America Arena Thursday night.
The victory was a key one for the suddenly reinvigorated Huskies (15-12, 6-8) - winners of three of their last four. Overton was spectacular leading the Huskies with 19 points, despite being limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
"I know this is what he's capable of doing," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game. "Tonight he was very focused. Athletes have a lot of pride. I think in Arizona, Jerryd Bayless got away from us and Venoy was guarding him. I think Venoy was inspired to play his best basketball."
Basketball is a game of runs - and both teams ran hot, and then cold during the first half. Overton set the tone early, rattling off five quick points, but the Wildcats' Jawaan McClellan had an answer, netting five points of his own. Then Hec Ed turned into an ice rink, and neither team could make a shot. What started out looking like a barnburner turned into a stalemate as the game bogged down into a possessio- oriented defensive battle. Both teams shot under 40 percent for the half.
The Huskies have been stellar defensively of late, and tonight was no different. Overton was a big reason why. Tasked with guarding Bayless, the conference’s leading scorer at 23.1 a game in Pac-10 play, the young Husky was a constant nuisance, frustrating the gifted scorer with his quick hands and physical presence. Despite surrendering nearly half a foot, Overton and his teammates pressured Bayless into a dismal 6-19 from the field, though he did manage to score a game-high 22 points, nine coming from the free throw line.
"They had a great game plan," Arizona Head Coach Kevin O'Neill said afterward. "They've got 10 or 11 guys that they keep rotating in and out. There are no consequences for them; we've only got one penetrating guard. It really puts us in a position out there where Jerryd is kind of stuck out there with the ball."
After an initial run to open the game, the shots stopped falling. Both teams went scoreless for nearly 5 minutes and after that, managed just six field goals combined during a 13-minute stretch, until Ryan Appleby’s Husky record-tying 3-pointer at the 3:38 mark of the half. The record setter came moments later as Appleby surpassed Deon Luton as the top 3-point marksman in UW history with 213.
The second half opened with a flurry of Washington fouls, as the Huskies racked up six quick ones in four short minutes, and the Huskies' foul advantage dissipated quickly. Fortunately for UW, fouls have a way of evening themselves out, as Jordan Hill - the lone Wildcat post - picked up his fourth personal foul five minutes into the period.
With Hill on the bench, the Huskies were free to attack the basket at will, and attack they did, rattling off several quick baskets and stretching the lead to seven. The Wildcats didn’t wilt though, as Chase Budinger hit a quick three - serving as a reminder how quickly the Wildcats can pour on the points from outside. But the euphoria didn’t last. Budinger drew his fourth foul moment later and the Wildcats collapsed.
"Sometimes when a guy gets in foul trouble, it doesn't just hurt him on the defensive end, but on offense as well," Romar said of Budinger. "I commend our guys because they were ready to play."
Overton and senior Tim Morris blitzed the reeling Wildcats, attacking the passing lanes as the lead ballooned to 13 after an 18-4 UW run. With the game slipping away, O’Neill had no choice but to put Hill and Budinger back into the game, despite being saddled with four fouls each.
The Wildcats responded. Hill, Bayless and McClellan all contributed points and the 13-point Washington advantage evaporated to just two.
Overton wasn’t about to let this one slip away. The smallest player on the court reached back into his bag of tricks and left nothing on the court, attacking the basket with reckless abandon, and leaving the Wildcats in the dust. Up 55-53 with 5:58 left, Overton was able to draw fouls on three straight possessions, making all six free throws.
He fouled out with three minutes left to a rousing standing ovation and the Huskies up 10. At the 2:23 mark, Washington's Joel Smith took his only shot of the game - a long 3-pointer - and buried it, giving UW a 68-56 cushion.
Despite their shakiness all year long at the charity stripe, the Huskies were able to seal the game with six clutch free throws in a row by junior guard Justin Dentmon.
"I could feel it," Overton said of his game coming together. "In the second half when I was attacking, I could feel something big was happening."
The Huskies face the 6-7 Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday. The Wildcats fell to 6-7 with the loss, and face the 9-5 Washington State Cougars Saturday in Pullman.
Points: Overton 19, Brockman 15, Pondexter 9, Morris 7, Appleby 6, Dentmon 6, Wallace 5, Bryan-Amaning 5, Smith 3
Minutes: Brockman 31, Pondexter 27, Wallace 25, Morris 24, Dentmon 23, Appleby 22, Overton 19, Bryan-Amaning 16, Smith 13
Rebounds: Brockman 15, Wallace 7, Morris 5, TEAM 4, Bryan-Amaning 3, Pondexter 3, Overton 1, Appleby 1, Smith 1, Dentmon 1
Assists: Overton 2, Dentmon 2, Wallace 1, Appleby 1
Steals: Brockman 1, Overton 1, Morris 1, Appleby 1, Dentmon 1, Pondexter 1
Blocks: Bryan-Amaning 1