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November 23, 2010

Washington overwhelms Virginia to set up Kentucky date

LAHAINA, Hawaii -Whipping the ball around the court, dropping in 3-pointers from seemingly anywhere and everywhere, the Washington Huskies put on an awe-inspiring offensive show against Virginia.

Next up is No. 8 Kentucky and freshman phenom Terrence Jones, possibly the most hated college basketball player in Seattle.

That anticipated matchup is set for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time on ESPN2.

Isaiah Thomas scored 14 of his 18 points in an overwhelming first half, and the No. 13 Huskies set up a semifinal showdown with the Wildcats by hitting a school-record 17 3-pointers in 106-63 rout over Virginia in the Maui Invitational on Monday night.

"We're ready," said Thomas, who was 7-for-11 from the field. "The lights are on and we always say the bright lights are fun, so we're ready for whoever our next opponent is, and that's Kentucky."

Against Virginia, Washington (3-0) made it look awfully easy.

The Huskies scored 216 points, second-most in program history, and had attempted a ridiculous 63 shots from 3-point in winning their first two games.

Washington had little trouble putting the ball in the hoop against Virginia's overmatched defense, shooting 59 percent and making 17 of 26 3-pointers, while getting 17 points from C.J. Wilcox and 12 each from Abdul Gaddy and Terrence Ross in a rout that started with a big run early in the first half.

Impressive? It sure was. But next comes the hard part: deep-and-talented Kentucky and do-everything Jones, the freshman who committed to Washington before backing out at the last minute.

Losing a top recruit like that was tough, especially after Enes Kanter also bolted for Lexington, but the Huskies say there's no animosity.

"We respect Kentucky's program and the job they do," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "Terrence Jones is a fantastic basketball player, but we're not coming out there because of any type of rivalry. We're coming out because this is the next opponent and we have to play at a high level."

Virginia (2-2) never stood much of a chance against Washington's athleticism.

The Cavaliers struggled against Washington's pressure early, fumbling the ball away early to fall into a big hole. Virginia couldn't stop the Huskies defensively or shoot their way back into it, hitting 37 percent from the field, including 4-of-16 from 3-point range.

Chelan's Joe Harris had 19 points and K.T. Harrell added 14 for the Cavaliers in their second consecutive lopsided defeat.

"We were thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Certainly, that's an experienced, explosive team and when they have an open look, at least tonight, they don't miss."

Matthew Bryan-Amaning led the Huskies with 21 points on 61.5 percent shooting the first two games, but it's Thomas who makes them go.

One of the nation's most dynamic players, the junior guard poked and prodded Virginia's defense early, setting up his outside game with hard drives to the basket.
Thomas hit two from beyond the arc and scored on a three-point play in the opening 5 1/2 minutes, scoring 11 of Washington's first 16 points.

That was just the start for the Huskies.

Forcing turnovers and getting out on the break, Washington went on 21-4 run filled with one crowd-raising play after another, including consecutive 3-pointers by Wilcox and a no-look pass by Justin Holiday that led to a dunk for Darnell Gant. Thomas stepped in to cap it, knocking down a 3-pointer from the wing, then shaking his head at the crowd as ran back with the Huskies up 37-17.

"No matter who's in front of me, I'm going to go out there and try to take it from them," Thomas said.

Virginia didn't have a response to Thomas' bullying.

The Cavaliers are still in reconstruction mode in their second season under Bennett and have a way to go.

Virginia looked good in wins over William & Mary and South Carolina-Upstate, but had trouble defending Stanford on the perimeter in a 21-point loss Thursday.

The Cavaliers couldn't seem to do anything right against Washington.

Dribbling into trouble and throwing wobbly passes on offense, the Cavaliers had eight turnovers in the first nine minutes and 12 in the first half.

They were even worse on defense, allowing the Huskies to seemingly shoot wherever and whenever they wanted. Washington shot 22-for-34 in the first half, including 8-of-9 from 3-point range, getting 14 points from Thomas and 10 from Gaddy to lead 55-31.

The Huskies didn't let up, pushing the lead over 40 points even after emptying the bench to rest up for the next day's showdown with the high-flying Wildcats.

"Lorenzo's got a heck of a team, they're deep, they're a beautiful shooting team," Bennett said. "I'm sure they'll be a challenge for them (Kentucky) tomorrow."




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