Sometimes it’s difficult to identify a play as a turning point as it happens with more than 10 minutes left in a game.
But with just under 11:30 left in the second half of the Washington Huskies 85-68 win over the Arizona Wildcats, point guard Isaiah Thomas made the type of play that says it all about who he is and what he means to the team.
After diving out of bounds and sliding toward the media room to save a ball to teammates under the Huskies’ own basket, he jumped up, sprinted back on to the court, gathered himself while bringing the ball upcourt to get the team in the offense, and then found Darnell Gant on the wing for a three.
Thomas talked during his FSN post-game comments about the Huskies being selfless as a team, but it’s hard to identify a better catalyst or example of that selflessness than Thomas’ play with over 11 minutes left. People have been talking for days about Thomas’ maturation into a true point guard, but that sequence showed the type of intangibles of that don’t show up in his increasingly gaudy assist numbers.
And behind Thomas’ ability to quickly switch from hustle player to poised leader, UW finally got the boost that had seemingly eluded them all game. From that point on, it was a slow progression to the epitome of Huskies basketball – forcing turnovers, pushing the tempo, and continuing to rely on their star point guard to find his teammates for open shots.
From there it was lights out.
Thomas finished with 10 assists that came on a combination of alley-oops, simple swing passes to open shooters, and feeds inside after dancing around the court to force the defense to react to him.
In addition to his dazzling play as a distributor, Thomas tied for a game-high 22 points with Justin Holiday who continued his hot shooting going 8-for-11 from the field.
For Arizona, star forward Derrick Williams got going in the understated manner than UW coach Lorenzo Romar worried about before the game, somehow ending up with 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting and 11 rebounds.
Thomas might not have the Pac-10 Player of the Year award locked up yet, but if there was any (irrationally) lingering doubt about whether there was substance behind all this more-than-a-scorer hype, his second half tonight should have put that to rest and nailed the door shut.