Washington is counting on reserve guards Venoy Overton and C.J. Wilcox as it makes a run to the NCAA tournament.
TEMPE, Ariz. — At their best, Washington is so much more than Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday, their All-Pac-10 candidates.
Thomas understands this.
Maybe that’s why the 5-foot-9 scoring dynamo draws more pleasure these days when he distributes an assist than when he sinks a three-pointer.
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“When everybody is playing their role and chipping in a little bit, we’re hard to beat,” Thomas said. “Those are the games when we score 90, 100 points. When everybody is doing their jobs and just playing the right way.”
To accomplish their lofty goals, the Huskies need more than their Big Three.
They need significant contributions from their role players, particularly Venoy Overton and C.J. Wilcox, a pair of reserve guards who might have broken through long slumps last week.
Overton, an all-conference defensive team selection last season, hadn’t been the same this season. Just recently he’s been able to apply defensive pressure on the perimeter, score in transition and distribute assists like he did last season when he was invaluable during Washington’s NCAA Sweet 16 run.
Wilcox also appears to have pulled out of a midseason nosedive.
In the past two games, the redshirt three-point specialist is 6 of 17 (35 percent) on three-pointers. In the previous 11 games, he was 5 of 28 (17.9 percent).
“There’s several guys, Venoy and C.J. in particular, who are turning the corner right now,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Several guys are really picking it up as we make this stretch run to March. I hope it can continue on to this weekend.”
The Huskies (17-7 overall, 9-4 in the Pac-10) enter Thursday’s game at Arizona State (9-14, 1-10) with consecutive wins over Stanford and California, which temporarily restored their confidence following a three-game losing streak.
The blowout victories allowed Overton and Wilcox to enjoy some personal success after months of disappointment.
“On the losing streak it was tough because we were depending on just Isaiah, Matt and Holiday to score a lot of points,” Overton said. “And if they didn’t score a lot of points, we weren’t looking good as a team.”
The Huskies looked unbeatable during their 109-77 win over Cal last Thursday because they received contributions from every part of the roster. Six UW players scored in double figures, and four players finished with at least four assists.
Last Saturday’s 87-76 victory against Stanford proved to be a coming-out party for Overton, who scored a season-high 12 points and went to the line seven times.
The 6-foot senior attributes a litany of injuries — a pulled hamstring, bruised tailbone, a hyperextended knee and sore shoulder — to what has been an otherwise forgettable season for him.
Overton’s assists average is up from last season (3.1 to 3.6), but his statistics are down in just about every other category.
Because he has played only 20 minutes per game, compared to 23 last season, Overton believes he’s the best conditioned player on the team.
“Not trying to be bigheaded, but I think that I am (in the best condition),” he said. “I haven’t really played a lot of games where I played 30 minutes, or just being 100 percent. Right now I feel like my legs are just now coming. I feel like I’m ready for the season to begin again.
“Drills in practice when we’ve got to run, I’m way ahead of everybody in first place. Coaches have told me that I’m back, and I can feel it.”
Overton’s comeback has coincided with Wilcox’s return.
Last Thursday, the redshirt freshman drained four three-pointers and scored 14 points. It was the most points he’s scored since a career-high 20-point performance on Nov. 30 against Long Beach State.
“We have guys on this team that have very specific roles,” Thomas said. “C.J., his job is to hit shots and play defense. Venoy is your energy guy with the things he does on defense and in transition and getting to the line.
“We feed off of those guys. When C.J. hits a couple of shots, that gets us going. The same thing with Venoy. Without them, man, I don’t know what might happen. But now that they’ve got some confidence, they’ll be all right.”
The same might be said about the Huskies.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org