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2010 Maui Invitational: Washington Even More Impressive In 106-63 Win Against Virginia

There are a times when a team becomes so dominant that they cease to be impressive - once it becomes expected that they'll steamroll everyone they'll encounter it becomes difficult to surpass those expectations.

The Washington Huskies have not yet gotten to that point, even after treating the Virginia Cavaliers just as they have treated opponents with no national recognition and running a way with a 106-63 blowout in their opener in Maui.

Virginia, as the reasoning might have gone, was an ACC opponent that obviously the Huskies couldn't just manhandle the way they did the likes of Eastern Washington or McNeese State. Virginia coach Tony Bennett was supposed to try to slow the Huskies down by playing a deliberate half court offense and stifling half court defense that would test the limits of the Huskies execution of half court sets.

And none of that happened - instead, we saw a Huskies team that stepped up to the challenge, played even more intense on both ends of the court while individuals showed signs of continued improvement.

But of course, they got what they expected from star guard Isaiah Thomas.

Key player: Isaiah Thomas

By nature, one would expect Thomas is going to use up the majority of the possessions in a nationally televised game such as this one, partially because of the spotlight, partially because of the assumed strength of competition. And as he's shown thus far this season, he's been able to continue being a potent score while being far more efficient (7-for-11 against UVA and 3-for-5 from 3-point range).

But to understand just how impressive Thomas has been, it helps to look at his performances beyond the points column.

He's come with far more defensive intensity this season than he has in past seasons. Not only has he become a more efficient scorer, but he's passing numbers are much improved as well - against UVA, he created an assist on just under 24 percent of his possessions while only committing a turnover on six percent (one turnover). He hit the defensive boards hard as well, finishing with six which represented about 23 percent of those available to him - and needless to say, that's outstanding for a 5-foot-9 guard.

But another player who gets less recognition was more impressive for having an even more well-rounded game.

UW statistical MVP: Justin Holiday

Holiday's performance may not stand out in the boxscore, but as coach Lorenzo Romar has mentioned a few times this season he's been a much more consistent player overall since the end of last season and it's just standing out a bit more now with a fresh beginning at hand.

Holiday activity on both ends of the floor was evident from watching the game and it resulted in the little things that stand out most for him. He finished with a game-high six steals in a game in which they forced UVA into turnovers on 23 percent of their possessions as well as grabbing an outstanding 20.62 percent of the offensive rebounds available to him and a game-high nine rebounds total.

When you think about what makes this team an elite rebounding team, a lot of it has to do with what we saw tonight - an entire unit dedicated to crashing the boards hard, with perimeter players leading the team in rebounds on both ends of the floor.

But their shooting was equally impressive.

Key statistic: shooting efficiency

 

 

 

After beginning the game shooting 8-for-8 from the three point line, the Huskies cooled off a bit in the second half shooting a far more pedestrian 52.9% from the field but still hitting 9-of-17 3-point shots in the second half to finish a scorching 17-for-26. They were generally clicking on all cylinders last night.

UVA statistical MVP: Joe Harris

However, once again, it's worth noting that this team is far from its peak, which is both encouraging for the season and a reason for uncertainty about the outcome of this tournament. They did have lapses in which they allowed guard penetration to the rim with help slow to rotate. They also allowed 6-foot-6 guard Joe Harris to drop 19 points on them on 8-for-13 shooting as well as four offensive rebounds.

Obviously, t's not the end of the world - this team is extremely good and although it's hard to say just how good as they trample everything in their path, we can at least say very good.

But against Kentucky and looking ahead to either Connecticut or Michigan State, they will be facing more dynamic perimeter players in addition to stronger rebounding teams overall. So before ramping up the expectations to Final Four level, it's worth waiting to see how far away they are from putting together their best effort.