This time the cliché didn’t work out. This time, good offense beat good defense.
Washington went into its rematch against Stanford on Saturday as the top-scoring team in the Pacific-10 Conference, while the Cardinal had the top scoring defense.
Then the Huskies erupted for more points against Stanford than anyone had managed this season in an 87-76 win before a sellout crowd at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“I thought they got going,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought we turned it over a few too many times, which led to transition and easy opportunities for them. And let’s face it, they’re a very good basketball team, and tonight they played well. They made it hard for us to get into the offense, and they turned defense into offense a few too many times.”
The Huskies led almost the whole way. And they came close to settling the issue late in the first half when Isaiah Thomas went off for 14 points in 2 minutes and 35 seconds.
“You can see how he scored 50 or more all those times (in high school),” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “When he gets in a zone, he is tough to deal with.”
Thomas had been shut out over the game’s first 17 minutes, but he changed that after deciding he had heard enough trash talk from the Cardinal, which handed UW its first league loss in January.
“They made me mad,” Thomas said. “They were just talking a little bit, and I just felt like I had to turn it up to end the half. The shots were going in, my teammates were finding me. Luckily, the shots went in. I just felt like I had to be a little more aggressive than when I was at first in there.”
Thomas led the Huskies with 22 points. Stanford’s Jeremy Green scored 24.
In the earlier loss at Stanford, Washington was held to 56 points. But in the rematch, UW scored its 56th point with 16 minutes remaining.
“(The difference was) attacking the middle,” point guard Venoy Overton said. “A lot of times Coach got on us about our wings not attacking enough, just settling for the 3(-pointer). Even though we shot a lot of 3s tonight, you see a lot of us got in the paint and kicked it out. We played a good inside-out game.”
Washington was 8-for-20 on 3-point attempts (40 percent) in the first half, then scaled that back to 2-for-9 (22.2 percent) in the second.
The Huskies’ lead peaked at 21 points about five minutes from the end. But Stanford closed with a rush, wiping a bit of the smile off Romar’s face.
“I’m excited that we played – going back to Thursday (against California) – three really, really good halves of basketball,” he said. “The fourth half wasn’t as good.
“I thought we played good tonight. Isaiah got hot at the end of the half, knocked some shots down, we were able to distance ourselves. In the second half, we just weren’t able to get that energy up to where we had it in the first half. We didn’t finish that game the way I would have liked.”
The result moves UW to 17-7 on the season and 9-4 in the Pac-10. Stanford fell to 13-11 and 6-7.
This week, Washington will head out on its final road trip of the Pac-10 regular season, visiting Arizona State on Thursday and league-leading Arizona on Saturday in a game that will have huge implications on the regular season championship.
“This will probably be the hardest road trip,” Thomas said. “There are two good teams down there, and they’ll be ready for us and we’ll be ready for them. It starts with Arizona State.
“We have to really be focused and dial in on the defensive end, and I think if we do that we’ll be OK.”