On the surface, the Washington men’s basketball team’s 88-52 victory over Texas Southern seemed like another ho-hum win against an overmatched opponent.
But with Washington’s dismal football season coming to a predictable conclusion earlier Saturday, the Husky basketball team at least gave its fans some reason for hope.
And optimism for the football program also was delivered with 11 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the first half when the public address announcer followed up a video collage of spectacular plays from Washington’s glory days in football with the announcement that Steve Sarkisian had been officially hired as the school’s 23rd head coach as the Ty Willingham era in Seattle comes to an end.
The announcement drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
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Huskies fans also were pleased with the performance of a team that continues to improve as a group of talented freshmen meshes with experienced veterans.
The Huskies did what they were supposed to do Saturday night – decisively defeating winless Texas Southern to improve their record to 5-3.
The contest is part of a six-game stretch of very winnable home games for the Huskies in December as they ready for their Pacific-10 Conference opener at the Washington State Cougars on Jan. 3.
Washington finished with four players in double figures, led by Jon Brockman’s 15 points and 11 rebounds, the senior forward’s fifth double-double of the season.
However, 6-foot-9 sophomore Matthew Bryan-Amaning stole the show, finishing with a career-high 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting from the floor, including some authoritative dunks by running the floor and off rebounds.
At one point, Bryan-Amaning scoring 14 consecutive points in the second half.
“All my teammates know I’ve been working hard in practice,” Bryan-Amaning said. “They’ve seen me do this in practice. They were just waiting for me to have a game like this.”
Washington swingman Quincy Pondexter continued his solid play, finishing with 13 points and eight assists. Freshman Isaiah Thomas totaled 10 points and three assists.
Matthew Miller led Texas Southern with 12 points.
Bryan-Amaning’s play was sweet redemption after receiving a quick hook early in the first half. With a little over 15 minutes remaining in the opening half, Bryan-Amaning attempted a no-look, behind-the–back pass on a two-on-one fastbreak. The errant offering was quickly gobbled up by the Tigers (0-8) and converted into a one-handed slam by Michael Drewy at the other end.
Soon, Bryan-Amaning found himself on the bench, as Lorenzo Romar gave the center two words of wisdom.
“Calm down,” Bryan-Amaning said Romar told him.
The Washington coach said when he recruited Bryan-Amaning in high school that he reminding Romar of Scottie Pippen because of his ability to handle the ball in the open court and find the open man. However, Bryan-Amaning has to learn when to spice it up and when to dial it down, Romar said.
“You never do it for an ‘ooh’ and an ‘ahh,’ ” Romar said. “You never do it for the applause. You do it to deceive the defender, and you only do that every once in awhile.”
Another reason for Bryan-Amaning’s breakout performance is he’s feeling relatively healthy for the first time this season. He injured his left hip, knee and ankle after taking a bad fall during a rebounding drill at practice a week before the season started and sat out the first three games.
“When I actually landed, I was screaming,” Bryan-Amaning said about the injury. “I thought I was going to be done for the season.”
He said Saturday’s game was the first time he could jump off his left leg, and he is about 80-85 percent.
Although the Huskies won easily, Romar said there are still some things to work on. Texas Southern remained in striking distance after the first half, trailing 42-28 as the Tigers stayed close by shooting 3-of-4 on 3-pointers in the opening half.
The Huskies turned the ball over 16 times, which Romar said was too many in this type of game. Center Darnell Gant also said his team could have moved the ball better on the offense to get higher percentage shots.
Those are the type of things the Huskies will work as they prepare to face Washington State on Jan. 3. The Huskies have lost to the Cougars seven consecutive times.
“There’s a few things that we’re still doing that if we try to do against Washington State, there’s no way we’re going to get away with it,” Brockman said. “They’re going to capitalize on every error we make.”