In his third season at Washington, and after 67 career appearances, forward Justin Holiday got his first career start Thursday.
He made the most of it.
Holiday’s energy on both ends of the court boosted the recently slow-starting Huskies to a big early lead, and they kept building on their way to a 94-61 win before a crowd of 9,720 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“Justin Holiday was the catalyst for this win,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He was inserted into the starting lineup because the things that he brings are the things that we were lacking.”
The list included defense, energy, rebounding and care of the basketball. And with those elements provided, Washington achieved its most one-sided win over Stanford, topping a 24-point victory in 1961. It also was UW’s first win by 20 or more points over the Cardinal since 1985.
“I thought they imposed their will,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “... They were a hungry basketball team, and you have to give them credit. We tried to do several things, tried to slow them down, and we weren’t able to do it.”
Within just the first five minutes, Holiday forced Stanford’s Landry Fields into a charge, assisted the Huskies’ first goal, hit a jumper after a kick-out from Isaiah Thomas, blocked a Fields shot, and finished an alley-oop from Venoy Overton.
Just like that, the Huskies were roaring away from the Cardinal at warp speed, reaching a 22-6 lead near the middle of the first half after holding Stanford scoreless for eight minutes.
“(Holiday) brought the energy from the jump,” Thomas said. “He got us going and we took it from there. It was great having him in the lineup. He’s always the guy off the bench – he and Venoy – bringing energy on the defensive end. And to have that while he’s starting is great.”
Holiday’s final numbers – six points, seven rebounds – only hint at his value.
“He’s a defensive general on the court,” captain Quincy Pondexter said. “It’s like Ray Lewis in football.”
Romar agreed, and quickly confirmed that Holiday will be back in the starting lineup Saturday, when California visits.
“It was obviously a dream come true,” Holiday said. “It’s my third year now, and I was real excited to step up and help my team out.”
Pondexter took over in the second half, leading Washington (11-5 overall, 2-3 Pacific-10 Conference) with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
The Huskies also got solid performances from the Tacoma guard twosome of Thomas and Abdul Gaddy with 15 and 10 points respectively. Gaddy was 5-of-6 from the field, missing only a 3-point try.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning contributed six rebounds. Scott Suggs came on late to drill three 3-pointers.
Washington, which had been struggling defensively, held the Cardinal to 30 percent shooting in the first half and 41.3 percent for the game. And after struggling on the boards, UW outrebounded the Cardinal 42-33. The Huskies forced 20 turnovers while committing only half as many.
Fields led Stanford (8-8, 2-2) with 17 points, five below his average. Jeremy Green, who exploded for 30 points last weekend against UCLA, was shut out over the first 17 minutes and finished with seven points – with Thomas handling primary defensive responsibility.
“He has about a 6-inch, 7-inch height advantage on Isaiah,” Romar said. “Isaiah did phenomenal. Isaiah didn’t give up many good looks.”
The resounding win ended Washington’s three-game skid.
Romar said the team’s problems came to a head with a pair of 17-point losses last weekend in Arizona. And the Huskies said the solution started to take shape in a series of intense practices this week.
“You have to come out and play hard or just be moving to the bottom of the Pac-10,” Thomas said. “We don’t want that. We want to win, and we have to show that’s what we want. We didn’t win for all the fans and everybody else talking about us. We had to win for ourselves.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808