The Huskies could also be without senior forward Justin Holiday, who suffered a concussion last Saturday and was unable to practice Tuesday.
It was difficult for Lorenzo Romar to crack a smile during Tuesday’s somber 70-minute news conference.
But the Washington men’s basketball coach could still crack a joke when asked who his backup point guard is now.
“Probably Isaiah,” he deadpanned.
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That’s Isaiah as in Isaiah Thomas, UW’s starting point guard who will likely play heavy minutes in Thursday’s Pac-10 tournament quarterfinal against Washington State because the Huskies are suddenly short-handed.
Romar suspended Venoy Overton for the entire conference tournament after the senior guard was charged with furnishing alcohol to 16-year-old girls, a gross misdemeanor.
The Huskies could also be without senior forward Justin Holiday, who suffered a concussion last Saturday and was unable to practice Tuesday. He’ll be re-evaluated Thursday morning.
“Those are two guys that can create havoc defensively,” Romar said. “That puts us with a seven-man rotation not counting (walk-ons) Brendan (Sherrer) and Antoine Hosley. So I’d say that’s a setback.”
Romar is optimistic Holiday will return, but he was grim about the prospects of playing without Overton.
“He was starting to play his best basketball,” Romar said. “I think he was rounding into shape to do the things we’ve all grown accustomed to watching him do on the floor.”
Without Overton, the Pac-10 active leader in assists (387) and steals (176), Thomas is the only scholarship point guard on the roster. UW lost starter Abdul Gaddy to a season-ending knee injury in January.
Thomas moved into Gaddy’s spot three months ago and initially flourished.
The junior co-captain nearly single-handedly won back-to-back games against California and Arizona when he averaged 24.5 points and 11.5 assists.
In the past two games, Thomas is averaging 12.5 points and 3.0 assists. He’s also shooting 32.0 percent (8 of 25) from the field and 0 for 6 on three-pointers during the span.
“I feel like lately my play has rubbed off against the team,” Thomas said. “I put a lot on my shoulders and a lot of blame goes to me for how we’ve been playing the whole month of February.
“I’m ready for Thursday. I see everybody is against us and it feels like our season may be over, but it’s a new season right now.”
Redshirt freshman C.J. Wilcox admitted he hasn’t played point guard since high school, but said he’s ready to take over the ball-handling duties if Thomas needs a breather.
Romar is reluctant to give Hosley a chance. The freshman point guard has appeared in the final minutes of 13 blowouts this season.
“It’s just tough to be in that situation,” Romar said. “In practice sometimes Scott Suggs has done it. It may have to happen by committee if Isaiah were to get into foul trouble or get winded and needed a rest.”
Thomas is averaging 30.1 minutes, and his season high is 39. In the first game against Washington State, an 87-80 UW defeat, he played 37 minutes before fouling out.
“I’m ready for whatever coach needs me to do,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get a win on Thursday.”
Thomas also expressed concern for Overton, who will watch the game from the sideline.
“I can’t be mad at him,” Thomas said. “He knows he did wrong. He knows what was at stake, but people make mistakes. I always feel like you deserve a second chance at whatever mistake you make.”
Washington vs. Washington State, Pac-10 tournament @ Staples Center, Los Angeles, 8:30 p.m., FSN