SEATTLE – Washington can now think about Maui without getting in trouble for looking ahead.
For one half Tuesday night, it looked like the 17th-ranked Huskies were already island bound.
Justin Holiday scored eight of his career-high 18 points during Washington’s 20-5 run to open the second half, center Matthew Bryan-Amaning posted his second double-double in as many games, and the Huskies overcame a sluggish first half to rout Eastern Washington 98-72.
Ask coach Lorenzo Romar and he thinks his squad simply got “out-scrapped” in the first half by an Eastern Washington team that proved to be more of a headache than the Huskies envisioned in their last warmup before the Maui Invitational.
Any worries, though, quickly vanished in the opening moments of the second half.
The Huskies’ (2-0) passive first-half defense suddenly became aggressive and suffocating. Holiday scored on quick run outs and added a 3-pointer. Abdul Gaddy, who made just three 3-pointers during his difficult freshman season, knocked down three on Tuesday night, two during the spurt to start the second half that made it 62-39. The lead only grew, reaching 29 late in the second half.
“We are not going to play with anybody with the speed and athletic ability that Washington has,” Eastern head coach Kirk Earlywine said. “They play at an unbelievable pace and we can’t replicate that in practice. It was good to play against that kind of talent.”
For at least one half, EWU was more of a thorn than an easy walk-through.
The Eagles, who lost to Division II Seattle Pacific and Montana State-Billings in their exhibition games, didn’t blink against the preseason favorites in the Pac-10. If not for 14 first-half turnovers, the Eagles might have found themselves in the lead, thanks largely to a passive Washington defense that gave open shots and second chances.
“Of our 14 turnovers, six of them were what I consider inexcusable, ones that we can’t make,” Earlywine said. “But I was happy with our competitiveness to rebound the ball.”
That changed quickly in the second half. Washington scored the first nine points of the half and 13 of 16. Coming off a career-high 28 points in the opener against McNeese State, Bryan-Amaning followed up with 14 points and 10 rebounds against the smaller Eagles. Gaddy finished with 13 points and six assists, while Overton, Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs and freshman Terrence Ross all finished with nine.
Kevin Winford led the Eagles (0-2) with 14 points. Tremayne Johnson added 13 points for the Eagles, who simply couldn’t keep up with the Huskies in the second half.
Eastern Washington played without point guard Glen Dean, the Big Sky defensive player of the year last season. Cliff Colimon was a question mark to even see the court with a sprained ankle, but scored seven points.
“It was a good learning experience for us,” Earlywine said. “It wasn’t a total loss for us by any means.”
Overton checked out with 2:20 left, limping after taking a hard fall. He had an icepack on his hip and backside after the game.
“My tailbone is a little sore, but no worries, I’ll be all right,” he said.
The Huskies leave Saturday for Maui and the Eagles were meant to be an easy warmup before the challenge that awaits on the islands, beginning with Virginia.
“It was a great game for us to use as a springboard going to Maui,” Romar said.