Washington fans had been waiting for the Tacoma, Washington native to have a breakout scoring night, and he delivered, on an evening when Jon Brockman and Mathew Bryan-Amaning were saddled with foul trouble most of the second half.
Thomas assaulted the basket with an array of dazzling lay-ins, and spent much of the night on the free throw line as a result, also garnering three steals and nabbing four rebounds. Thomas was 8-9 from the stripe, and the team a superb 31-41 from the free throw line overall.
“We always said there were going to be games where he’d get 25 or 30 points,” Coach Romar explained about his diminutive freshmen. “He put a lot of pressure on Morgan State and got to the foul line. He got in a groove tonight, and I think we saw what he is capable of doing.”
The final game before the conference opener is always approached with apprehension -injury concerns and anticipation of conference play often overshadow the game at hand. Such was the case for Romar and his Huskies against a scrappy Morgan State team in their final tune-up before their Pac-10 opener in Pullman Saturday night against Washington State. The solid, if uninspired, effort against the Bears concluded the Huskies non-conference schedule with a record of 9-3.
“It was a good game for us,” explained Romar afterwards. “Not only because they had some good athletes out there, but because they executed, slowed the game down, and we were in foul trouble. We had to play without some of our guys out there, and we had to find a way to win.”
“We made free throws tonight,” he added, “and it made a huge difference, and we took care of the basketball. If we don’t do either of those things, it would have been a much closer game than it was and the game could have come down to the wire.”
The Huskies were out-rebounded by the smaller Bears by 39-41, despite Jon Brockman (18 points, 5 boards) becoming just the second Husky in history to surpass 1000 rebounds for his career. The Bears attacked the paint aggressively all night, holding their own against the unsuspecting Husky forwards, who were caught off guard by Morgan State’s rebounding prowess – especially on the offensive glass where the visitors tallied 16 boards. The Bears were led by the 16 points and 9 rebounds of guard Reggie Holmes.
Washington took a more disconcerting hit when they lost promising freshmen Elston Turner Jr. to an ankle injury midway through the first half. Though the X-rays were negative, the Huskies will be without his services for the forseeable future. For a team with few outside shooters, the Huskies can ill afford to lose one of their top three point marksmen for an extended length of time. The coaching staff won’t know the extent of the injury until sometime tomorrow.
“Elston’s X-Rays were negative,” Romar noted. “Nothing was fractured, and we’ll have a good nights sleep tonight and see where we are tomorrow.”
On the brighter side, for a team that has struggled defensively the last two seasons, Washington continued to excel on the defensive end tonight, holding the Bears to 39.1% from the field. Washington also blocked eight shots and nabbed eight steals in the effort while holding the Bears to just two of nine shooting from the three point line.
Sophomore point guard Venoy Overton turned in his second consecutive strong performance, hitting two three pointers en route to 11 points while playing his typically energetic defense.
The Huskies attention now turns to Washington State – a team they’ve lost to seven straight times – to open what promises to be one of the most competitive Pac-10 seasons in memory.