Despite the final 17-point margin, for most of its length Washington's 85-68 win over Arizona lived up to its billing as a battle of the league’s top two teams.
The sellout crowd at Hec Ed certainly added the feel of a big -- BIG -- game. And also living up to its billing was the battle between each team’s conference player-of-the-year candidates.
Isaiah Thomas: 22 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and a hustle play for the ages.
Derrick Williams: 22 points, 11 rebounds, but no points over almost the last seven minutes.
The rematch comes Feb. 19 in Tucson.
“Especially being on there home court, it’s going to be a tough one down there,” Holiday said. “I’m going to be waiting for that. But as of this time, we’re going to worry about Arizona State."
That one comes at 1 p.m. Saturday at Hec Ed.
But before looking at that one, here's some postgame reaction to this one (and if you're skimming, be sure to check was Arizona coach Sean Miller's praise of Isaiah Thomas: sample "I have a hard time imagining that there are five better point guards in the country than Isaiah Thomas."):
UW coach LORENZO ROMAROverview) We’re pretty pleased. We were able to come out and beat a good basketball team in Arizona. What I liked the most about it was it was a total team effort. It took a total team effort to defend Derrick Williams and the rest of them. It took a team effort on offense. I thought we shared the basketball. Isaiah Thomas was great with 10 assists and only one turnover. We did this as a team and that’s something we talk about quite a bit. So, I have to be excited about that. It’s not about the score, it’s about whether we tried to do things right and I thought we really tried to play right.
On whether they’re where they want to be as a team) We are making progress. We’re where we want to be in terms of standings. In terms of reaching our potential, we still are a work in progress that way.
UW guard ISAIAH THOMASOn the diving save and the following three point shot by Darnell Gant) That was big. I knew the ball was right there and I was going to do whatever I could to get that. And we got it and Darnell knocked down a big three and that kind of changed the momentum to our side and we just kept the lead. That was a big shot by Darnell, I’ve been on him this whole week, you have to knock these open shots down, and he did.
On the chippiness and atmosphere) You could tell all week, people were blowing it up on Twitter, around school. They are the number 25 team in the country and were number 20, fight for first place. These are the games you want to play for, you want to get the win.
On setting up Venoy Overton’s dunk) We worked on that all the time, he knows once I drive and he’s on the same side he goes back door, we’ve done it a few times in practice and it worked. At first I thought it was going over the backboard but he got up. It’s been a while since he could dunk because he’s been hurt but he got that one.
UW senior JUSTIN HOLIDAYOn being in first place) It’s where we want to be, we would rather be at the stop then have to fight for it. If we can keep doing this and keep getting wins, and keep playing well we’ll be fine. After this, Arizona St. and Washington St., we’re starting over again so if we can stay in first place that’s going to help a lot for the second half of the Pac-10.
On defending Derrick Williams) I think we had to adjust from the first half when he was getting the baseline and getting inside, but we were able to help each other and make him kick it out. That was good for us. He’s a real good player; he can shoot the three and play inside. I think our big men did a real good job on him.
UW senior MATTHEW BRYAN-AMANINGOn the game) I think we had a good team effort and we got points from all over the floor. On guarding Derrick Williams) With a player like that you just have to limit his touches and try and play him to his weaknesses. With the team they have, they’re obviously going to go to him a lot down the court, so we just had to do the best we can playing him to his weaknesses and just try to make him make contested shots. On the standout play of Pac-10 Player of the Year candidates Derrick Williams and Isaiah Thomas) Obviously you know that [Williams] is a great player. Obviously you know that Isaiah is a great player. But throughout our team, one through ten, I think we’ve got a couple other good players. Right now myself, Justin [Holiday], and Isaiah are playing great basketball and we’re trying to do it every game. Arizona coach SEAN MILLEROverview) We learned a lot about playing Washington. Isaiah Thomas is at such a high level break you down and will them to a victory. To beat Washington at Washington you really need to play a version of your very best. For us it’s a matter of moving to the next game and seeing if we can leave the state of Washington with a win. I think we played a better team tonight. On Isaiah Thomas) Some of their other players are very good, but Thomas has an amazing ability to use ball screens to score himself or get other people in a position to score. It is much similar to stop a player from doing one of the two, but when he can do both its almost impossible. Washington does a great job putting players in the right position, and some of their best baskets came off of Thomas passes. On other players for Washington) They (have) two players Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holliday who were pieces to their success last year, and smaller pieces the year before. As they have been in the Washington system they have taken it to the next level. They are both having excellent years. They both make fantastic individual plays, and they seem to have a great relationship with Thomas on the court. Thomas really makes that team better. I have a hard time imagining that there are five better point guards in the country than Isaiah Thomas.
UA forward SOLOMON HILLOn Thomas) I thought Isaiah was a key point for them. Him getting to the middle really hurt our team. When he did get to the middle we collapsed and he passed it for the open three, and when we didn’t help he was able to score or get to the line. He had 23 [points] and 10 [assists]. He was really the man for them tonight. On the second half) We were so used to getting fouled and when we didn’t get the fouls called it kind of took us out of our game. You think you get fouled and you stop to look at the official, and by that time they [Washington] are already pushing the ball to half court. All five of their guys are past half court and are looking to score. On the effect of Derrick Williams' fourth foul) We knew it was coming. With the way that they play, we knew that it was coming. They set so many screens and Derrick has to run and hedge at a full sprint, and if he doesn’t get out there then Isaiah is going to shoot it.