UW Basketball: Huskies' Hot Second Half Shooting Fuels Win Over Arizona

Every team has a different test over the course of the season and the Washington Huskies' consistent test has been rebounding.

Although the Huskies were up five points at halftime tonight, the Arizona Wildcats were outrebounding them by a narrow margin overall and 6 to 3 on the offensive boards. That might not seem like a lot until considering the percentage of missed shots that Arizona was grabbing - the Wildcats were about 12 percent better on the offensive boards than the Huskies.

In the second half, the Huskies turned that around, beating Arizona 41 percent to 20 percent and finishing ahead in total rebounding for the game.

Yet that wasn't even the biggest turnaround of the game.

Key statistic: UW shot over 50 percent in the second half

In something of a rarity, both teams actually improved their shooting in the second half with Arizona taking a 13 percent leap to 46.7 percent while Washington took about a seven percent leap to 51.6 percent.

It's hard to explain that other than both teams appearing to have shaken off some big game jitters in the second half.

But the player who took the single most noticeable jump was Arizona star Derrick Williams.

Arizona statistical MVP: Huskies keep Derrick Williams off the free throw line

Williams ended up with a double-double, tied with Holiday and Thomas with a game-high 22 point to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds.

But it wasn't for lack of Huskies defense.

The Huskies' post players did an outstanding job of containing Williams, particularly in keeping him off the free throw line - as ridiculous as it might sound, the fact that he only had about half as many free throw attempts (seven) as field goal attempts (15) is actually an accomplishment.

As much as the Huskies defense is responsible for that, part of that also falls on the shoulders of Arizona guards - Williams struggled early in the game, going 2-for-7 in the first half and then the team seemed to look for other options.

As efficient as Williams ultimately was, Washington's Justin Holiday was by far the most efficient scorer of the game.

Key Player: Holiday finishes as the most efficient scorer on an efficient scoring team

Everybody is talking a lot Isaiah Thomas right now and rightfully so.

But to pick up all these assists, somebody has to be making shots and right now one of the hottest people on the team has been Justin Holiday.

There were times in the game when it literally seemed like Thomas was dribbling around the court with the express purpose of waiting for Holiday to pop open on the 3-point line.

Of course, that wasn't actually the case, but it would have made sense - Holiday was by far the hottest shooter of the night, finishing tied for a game-high 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting and played outstanding defense as usual. He also got to the free throw line at a solid rate with five attempts in addition to having three assists compared to only one turnover, including a beautiful pass on a Matthew Bryan-Amaning backdoor dunk.

But it's impossible to talk about beautiful passing in this game without discussing Isaiah Thomas.

UW statistical MVP: Thomas' becoming even more efficient as a distributor

It would be difficult not to attribute the Huskies' hot second half shooting to Isaiah Thomas' ability as a distributor and he definitely had the numbers to prove it.

Thomas notched another double-double with 22 points and 10 assists, but don't be fooled into thinking it wasn't as strong a performance as the one he put together Sunday at Cal.

Statistically, the fact that he got as assist on 36.5 percent of this possessions while only turning it over on 3.6 percent is astounding all by itself. But it was how he got those assists that was most impressive - even in comparison to the Cal game, they were more spectacular and varied.

A combination of alley-oops, thread the needle passes, and misdirecting the defense off the dribble. He's talked about being more comfortable at the point guard position by the game, but at some point we're going to have to acknowledge that we were sleeping on his ability as a distributor rather than him suddenly developing all these intangibles.


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