Arizona St.-Washington Preview

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar was not pleased with Isaiah

Thomas’ play heading into last season’s home game against Arizona

State. That definitely isn’t the case as his team prepares for this

year’s matchup in Seattle.

Thomas and the 20th-ranked Huskies continue their push for a

Pac-10 title on Saturday when they face the Sun Devils.

Romar benched Thomas for stretches of an 81-75 victory over

Arizona on Feb. 4 for doing a poor job running the offense, but the

5-foot-9 guard came out two days later and scored 17 points with

seven assists to lift host Washington to a 79-56 win over the Sun

Devils.

Thomas enters this contest following a pair of brilliant

performances. After scoring a season-high 27 points with a

career-best 13 assists in Sunday’s 92-71 win at California, the

junior had 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in an 85-68

victory against Arizona on Thursday that gave Washington (14-4,

6-1) sole possession of first place in the league.

The Huskies hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the Wildcats and

UCLA.

“Isaiah Thomas, it’s not even close, there’s not one player in

the country who’s more disrespected across the nation than him. Not

one. It’s not even close,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

“If he’s not one of the top four or five point guards in the

country, then I’m going to tell you I want to invite these guys who

vote to come and watch film.”

Thomas ranks third in the Pac-10 with 16.8 points per game and

is averaging a league-best 5.7 assists. With point guard Abdul

Gaddy out the rest of the season with an ACL injury, Thomas’ one

turnover against Arizona was exactly the kind of ball control Romar

wants to see from his star guard.

“We’ll take that,” the Huskies coach said.

Thomas could put up more big numbers the way the Sun Devils are

struggling defensively. Arizona State ranks in the top 5 in the

Pac-10 with 64.3 points allowed per game and field goal defense at

41.6 percent, but coach Herb Sendek’s team is allowing 79.0 points

per game on 49.5 percent shooting while losing two straight on the

road.

The Sun Devils (9-9, 1-5), tied with Oregon for last place in

the conference, missed 19 of 29 3-point attempts and shot a

season-worst 32.8 percent from the field in Thursday’s 78-61 loss

at Washington State.

Senior guard Ty Abbott, who leads Arizona State with 13.5 points

per game, scored 16 and Seattle native Jamelle McMillan had 10.

The Huskies have held their opponents to 38.5 percent shooting

while winning their three Pac-10 home games by an average of 22.0

points.

Washington seniors Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning will

have to keep an eye on Rihards Kuksiks. With three 3s against the

Cougars, the senior forward improved to 9 of 20 from long range

over the last four games and moved into ninth place all-time in

Pac-10 history with 253 3-pointers.

Kuksiks hit five shots from beyond the arc and matched a career

high with 27 points as the Sun Devils snapped a six-game home

losing streak to Washington last season.

The Huskies, winners of 17 of 19 at home in league play, lead

the conference in 3-point shooting at 39.9 percent.

Arizona State leads the all-time series 36-34 but has dropped 14

of the last 17 meetings.