SEATTLE -- Quincy Pondexter scored 21 of his 25 points in the first half, Isaiah Thomas added 20 and Washington put itself back in the Pac-10 race with an impressive 84-69 win over conference-leading California on Saturday.
After three straight losses dropped Washington from the rankings and to the bottom of the conference standings, the Huskies rebounded with an easy laugher against Stanford, then frustrated the Bears into just their second loss in their last seven games.
Thomas and Pondexter were the culprits at the offensive end, but it was Washington's defense that helped them build a 24-point lead in the first half. Washington forced 15 turnovers in the half, held the Bears to just 37 percent shooting and kept leading scorer Jerome Randle scoreless with just two shot attempts and seven turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
The result was a 50-31 Washington halftime lead that the Bears couldn't overcome.
Patrick Christopher led California (11-6, 3-2 Pac-10) with 28 points, but was the only one of Cal's top four scorers to reach double figures.
Randle, who had a career-best 39 points Thursday night at Washington State, finished with five points on Saturday and sat glumly with a towel flung over his shoulders in the final minutes. Jamal Boykin and Theo Robertson were non-factors in the game.
Afterward, Randle said his right knee was bothering him a lot after he twisted it in the final minutes against Washington State.
After dropping three straight to Oregon, Arizona State and Arizona, the Huskies (12-5, 3-3) looked lost and without an identity. They appeared to rediscover themselves by blowing out the Bay Area schools by a combined 48 points.
And it started with their defense.
Washington forced 22 California turnovers, making up for the 50 times the Huskies sent Cal to the free-throw line. But the fouls served their purpose, displaying the Huskies' aggressive, physical tone on defense, something missing in the previous weeks.
Thomas was a pinball, diving all over the floor, strutting with a limp at times after taking another bump to his already small frame. He was largely responsible for Randle's horrid day.
Thomas followed Randle's every step and often denied him an opportunity to get a pass. Known mostly for his offense, Thomas was as pumped when he forced a five-second call against Cal's Brandon Smith, as when his home-run pass found Pondexter for a two-handed dunk in the first half.
But while he took most of the turns against Randle, Thomas got help. Abdul Gaddy and Venoy Overton defended Randle, who missed his first five shots and finished just 2-of-9 shooting. The Huskies' student section chanted "Randle, Randle" and held their hands to form a zero until Randle finally scored with 12:12 remaining. They rewarded the runner in the lane with mock applause for Randle, but the Bears still trailed by 22.
The aggressive defense kept Cal's offense from ever getting started. Christopher scored 17 in the first half, but no other Bears player had more than four. Cal coach Mike Montgomery was regularly in the ear of the officials and glared at them as he left the floor at halftime even though the Bears shot 29 free throws in the first half.