However, Isaiah Thomas remained at the other guard spot. And that was the personnel issue that mattered most, as Thomas erupted for a season-high 27 points and a career-high 13 assists in leading the Huskies to a 92-71 win over California at Haas Pavilion.
Thomas broke through for 18 points in the first half – the most by any Husky in a half this season. In the second half, Cal coach Mike Montgomery moved All-Pac-10 defensive team defender Jorge Gutierrez onto Thomas, who is 6 inches shorter. However, Thomas picked his spots in the second half and continued to contribute with points and assists.
"That was probably the best performance I’ve seen him have as a Husky," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He was just a band conductor. He orchestrated that game for all of the minutes that he played – the 35 minutes he was in there. He was really good. He’s been playing like this since we’ve started conference."
The other starting guard spot went to junior Scott Suggs got his first career start in place of Venoy Overton. Overton had started the previous three games since point guard Abdul Gaddy went down with a season-ending knee injury.
The move seemed to be a matter of matchups, however, as Overton came on after less than seven minutes and played a typical number of minutes.
The game was up-tempo from the start. The teams jockeyed for position for most of the first half, until Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning fueled a late run that put UW ahead, 48-33, at halftime.
Justin Holiday opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Huskies were off and running with California (9-8 overall, 2-3 Pac-10) unable to get seriously back into the game thereafter.
With the win, Washington (13-4,5-1) moved back into the conference lead, a half-game ahead of Arizona.
The Huskies begin at two-game homestand against Arizona at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Thomas hits a pair of free throws, giving him as season-high 27. Dawgs up, 81-62.
8:24 N'Diaye fouls out. UW up, 79-62.
2nd/9:11 UW, 77-61.
2nd/11:27 UW, 72-53. Thomas has 23 points, one short of his season high. (His career high is 30.) MBA has 18.
2nd half: Has begun with a bang. Justin Holiday nails back-to-back threes, and UW goes up 54-33.
Suggs starts half again.
Halftime: UW, 48-33. Isaiah Thomas has been all over everything on this one, including 18 points, six assists, and the final three of the half. MBA has 11 points and a game-high six rebounds.
Thomas' 18 are the most by a Husky in a half this season.
UW is outshooting the Bears, 53 percent to 43, and is outrebounding them 21-14. Huskies also are 7-of-14 on 3-pointers, with three from Thomas and one each from Holiday, Sugges, Ross and Gant.
1st/4:34 UW, 36-24. Huskies nice run led largely by Thomas and MBA. But Gant just hit a 3-pointer, causing Mike Montgomery to call time.
1st/7:53 UW, 23-22, but Cal is putting on a run and the crwod is into this one.
1st/11:58: UW 19, Cal 14.
1st/13:31: Overton in for Suggs. UW up, 19-11. MBA involved with six.
1st/15:09 Whew: fast start. UW up, 15-11. Cal took a 5-0 lead on an Allen Crabbe two and trey. However, UW has been running with them and past them since. Thomas has eight points already. Scuggs has a 3-pointer.
Tipoff: ... we're under way.
Lineups: Scratch that earlier report. Word from the Huskies now is that Scott Suggs will start tonight in place of Venoy Overton. That makes the lineup: Thomas, Suggs, N'Diaye, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Holiday ... with Overton on the bench. It will be Suggs first career start.
Golden Bears going with Jorge Gutierrez, Markhuri Sanders-Frison, Brandon Smith, Harper Kamp and Allen Crabbe.
Scouts in the house: Taking in tonight's game will be scouts from the Spurs, Warriors, Kings, Magic and Pistons.
90 minutes til tip: A few Huskies and Bears are out on the court warming up -- Huskies in gold, Golden Bears in white.
Basics: Tip 7 p.m., radio 950-AM, TV FSN (with Barry Tompkins and Ernie Kent handing the call), and of course we'll keep this blog post open all evening for pregame, in-game and postgame news and updates and your comments.