The Washington Huskies got almost everything they wanted out of their final non-conference game Tuesday night.
They also got something they didn’t want: an injury to freshman Elston Turner.
Above all, they got a win: 81-67 over Morgan State before a crowd of 8,260 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Afterward – with Pacific-10 Conference play dead ahead this weekend – coach Lorenzo Romar seemed pleased that the win didn’t come easily. The Huskies kept the Bears at arm’s length for most of the game, but didn’t fully push them aside until the end.
“That was a great game for us,” Romar said. “… I thought it was not only a good game for us in the sense that they had some good athletes out there, but they executed, they slowed the game down, but also there was foul trouble. We had to play without some of our guys out there, and we had to find a way to win.”
One of those ways was getting a career-high 27-point performance from freshman guard Isaiah Thomas of Tacoma.
“I felt like my teammates needed me,” Thomas said. “I told (point guard Venoy Overton) a couple of times the lane is going to be open. Me and him did a great job of getting into the lane, finding teammates and finishing. … It definitely was in the flow of the game. It didn’t feel like I was scoring like that, but my teammates opened it up for me.”
Thomas’ big performance helped overcome a few problems the Huskies encountered along the way.
For the first time this season, Washington was outrebounded, 39-37.
While the Bears stayed within striking distance down the stretch, Jon Brockman had to watch from the bench with foul trouble.
And then there was Turner sitting out with an ankle sprain suffered less than seven minutes into the game – Turner hit the court with his leg tucked under him as Morgan State’s Rico Myles tumbled on him.
Turner was averaging 4.5 points and 2.9 rebounds in about 17 minutes per game. He was third on the team in steals and 3-point shooting percentage. He provided an outside threat on a team that is short on outside shooting.
Who will pick up the playing while Turner is down?
“Scott Suggs is someone who hasn’t been playing just because you can’t play everyone,” Romar said. “And Scott Suggs can shoot the ball. He hasn’t played as many minutes as Elston, but there will be opportunities for him. (Justin Holiday) hasn’t shown that he’s a 3-point shooter, but there will be more minutes for him. He certainly does a whole lot of other things.”
Late in the first half, Brockman picked up the 1,000th rebound of his career. He ended the night with 18 points and five rebounds.
Quincy Pondexter led UW with six rebounds. Overton scored 11 points.
Morgan State (5-8) had three players score in double-digits: Reggie Holmes, 16; Jermaine Bolden, 15; and Kevin Thompson, 14.
“I thought we did a lot of things well,” Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman said. “We played them close at home. We outrebounded them, and that is very significant because they are one of the best teams in the country at that. We were aggressive and played hard, and that was good.”
Romar thought his team did, too.
“Overall, I thought our guys came through and did a very good job in ending this non-conference season,” he said.
The win was UW’s seventh straight and raises the record to 9-3 heading into Pac-10 play at 3 p.m. Saturday at Washington State.
“I think mentally, definitely we’re ready,” Brockman said. “As far as our play, it’s getting better every day. And that will just continue throughout until we play our very last game of the year later on in the spring. We have a lot to get better at, but at the same time I think we’re all pretty excited about starting Pac-10.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808