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December 7, 2009

Second-Half Run Leads UW Over Cal-State Northridge

The Huskies defeated the Cal State Northridge Matadors, 88-76, Sunday night at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, raising their record to 6-1.


The least you should know:

Without ever playing spectacularly (40.3% field goal percentage, 20 turnovers), the Huskies handled Northridge without too much drama this evening.

Quincy Pondexter was, again, the Huskies' best player tonight, scoring 20 points, and adding seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

After building a 12-point halftime lead, the Huskies allowed the Matadors to close within one over the opening minutes of the second half before pulling away for good.

The narrative:

This was to be a bounce-back game for the Huskies. Sandwiched between their tough overtime loss on Thursday and Saturday's showdown with Georgetown, a national power, this was a game the Dawgs needed to have.

But, with 15:28 left, and Cal State Northridge hot off a 14-2 run to start the second half, the Washington Huskies were staring at the distinct possibility of a fight to the finish if they were to avoid losing their second straight game.

Quincy Pondexter took responsibility for the Northridge run. "I'll take the fault for that one too. I wasn't making shots," Pondexter said. "We had some turnovers that led to their baskets."

Seven minutes later, though, after an 18-2 run of their own put the Huskies up 66-49, it was clear that the Huskies were on their way to preserving their perfect home record and improving to 6-1 on the year. In the end, they prevailed, 88-76.

Quincy Pondexter had five of his 20 points during the Huskies decisive run. "We bounced back after they went on that little spurt, and we finished them off," Pondexter said.

"He just stepped up and just made plays and allowed us to distance ourselves from Northridge," Coach Lorenzo Romar said of Pondexter, who also had seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.

Despite the victory rarely being in doubt after the opening minutes of the second half, the Huskies turned the ball over a season-high 20 times, after committing 19 turnovers at Texas Tech.

"If we'd taken care of the basketball, with the exception of Texas Tech, like we'd been doing in our other games," Romar said. "I think we'd be feeling a lot better about this win.

After two straight games with zero points, heralded freshman Abdul Gaddy scored his career-high with 11 points against the Matadors this evening.

"You saw a glimpse of his potential. He's going to be a terrific player just in a matter of time," Pondexter said. "People might say what they want to say about him, but when his career's over, he's gonna be a tremendous player."

The Huskies' other star, Isaiah Thomas, scored 21 points on a 4-10 shooting night, but also committed five turnovers.

"You give Isaiah a little leeway because he's such a good scorer," Romar said. "You don't limit scorers. You don't put a fence around scorers. You let them go play."

The win should allow the Huskies to leave the memory of Thursday night's difficult 99-92 overtime loss at Texas Tech in the past.

"We were really emotionally hurt," said Pondexter. "We looked in our own hearts, and we realized we have to get a lot better and there's so many mistakes that we all took upon ourselves that could've changed the game's outcome."

The Huskies next play Georgetown in Anaheim this Saturday morning at 11 AM as part of the John R. Wooden Classic.

"Right now we're really getting into what I would call the pre-Pac-10 portion of our schedule. We've got some top-25 opponents. Some opponents that are really, really gonna come out and really test us," Romar said. "We've got a week to get ready for that."

"Our mistakes are mistakes we can correct," Romar continued, and then listed the three areas separating his team from being where they'd like to be: "Taking care of the basketball. Shot selection. Defensive accountability for 40 minutes."

Analysis and Observation:

Well-balanced attack tonight for the Dawgs. All 11 Huskies who took the court scored. Romar said afterward that he'd be tightening the rotation for the next few games and wanted to get everyone some time on the court tonight ahead of that.

Coach mentioned in his post-game press conference that along with not taking care of the ball, the Huskies also did a poor job finishing near the rim. True that. Against a team that wasn't playing anything that could be described as "strong defense," the Huskies shot only 27-67 (40.3%).

The first four minutes of the second half was probably the ugliest stretch of Husky basketball I've seen this year. The next seven minutes, though, were a thing of beauty. The team on the floor for most of the decisive run was Quincy, Isaiah, Gaddy, MBA and Scott Suggs.

Husky of the Game: Quincy Pondexter in every way except his post-game comments (again) taking blame for the Huskies struggles early in the second half. Pondexter also told The Seattle Times that he blamed himself for Thursday's loss in Lubbock. We get it, Quincy. You're the leader, and you're taking responsibility. But, when you've had one of the best starts in the entire country, it's just not a credible assessment of your play to be so self-critical.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning is improving on the boards, and wasn't far from averaging a double-double over the last three games (8 ppg, 8 rpg).

Update on the point guard battle: Gaddy had 11 points, two assists and three turnovers. Venoy Overton had seven points, two assists and three turnovers. Throw in Overton's superior defense and tonight was a draw.

Hard to know whether to call this a mini-bounce-back game for Isaiah Thomas or not. He scored 21 points, shot 4-10, and got to the line a bunch, scoring 13 points from the stripe. But, he had five turnovers and still isn't making it look easy around the rim. After seeing teams able to stop him recently, I feel like we're looking at the basketball equivalent of a heavy-duty fastball pitcher who still hasn't really developed his second pitch.

Again, the Huskies didn't cover tonight (they were favored by 20 points), and remain a terrible bet. The Dawgs are 1-6 against the spread.

Elston Turner started again tonight for the Huskies for the second straight game.

Turner missed two big free throws the other night and came into the game shooting better from three-point range (34.8%) than from the line (28.6%). Turner went the line early in the game and missed two more free throws. Later, he sunk a pair leading to sarcastically loud cheering from the Husky crowd.

The afternoon game of the Wooden Classic will feature UCLA facing off against last year's NCAA Tournament foe of the Huskies, Mississippi State.


Josh Anderson is the publisher of Montlake Madness, a 100 percent free fan site dedicated to University of Washington basketball. UDUBsports.com will be teaming up with Josh for the basketball season to provide even more comprehensive coverage of all the action!


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