After an outstanding defense display at the start, an offensive drought midway in the game and late-game offensive heroics from Andrew Andrews, Washington’s 59-57 win in its Pac-12 home-opener came down to one final defensive stand.
The Huskies had been so good on defensively lately, but Wednesday night they were facing Delon Wright, Utah’s 6-5 junior guard who entered the game leading the Pac-12 with a 68.1 percent field goal percentage. For the first 39 minutes, he showed why several NBA scouts flocked to Alaska Airlines to watch him perform as he torched Washington for a career-high 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting.
But when the Huskies absolutely had to have a stop in the final 9.2 seconds, they executed their defense flawlessly. They switched without hesitation. They cut off the driving lanes to the basket and forced Wright into the corner where he launched a contested three-pointer while falling back into the Utah bench. His shot sailed over the rim and time expired before Jordan Loveridge gathered the rebound and put the ball in the basket.
Judging from the picture (above), not sure if Wright was bothered too much by Andrews’ defense.
However, the Huskies got exactly the shot they wanted. They didn’t want to give up a dribble layup. They didn’t want to foul. And they didn’t want to allow an open shot.
All things considered, it was perfect outcome to an imperfect finish for Washington, which led by nine points (59-50) before falling apart offensively at the end.
As fate would have it, Andrews had a lot to do with the Washington’s trouble in the final minutes.
Leading by seven points with 1:07 left, he lost the ball at the top of the key, which led to a Utah fast break and Wright dunking at the other end.
Up by five points, Andrews missed a jumper and Wright buried a three-pointer to pull Utah to within two.
On the ensuing possession, Andrews could have increased UW’s lead to four, but he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw situation.
However, the Huskies retained possession with 9.2 seconds left. That’s when Mike Anderson’s pass to Wilcox dribbled out of bounds giving Utah one last chance.
When asked if Wright’s fadeaway three-pointer was the shot Washington wanted, Andrews said: “I will say yeah because he missed it.”
Washington held Utah to 41.5 percent shooting from the field (22 of 53), 1 of 15 on three-pointers (6.7 percent) and just three assists. The Huskies also forced two shot-clock violations, which thrilled the crowd of 3,424 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Washington (10-6, 2-1 Pac-12) has held its first three Pac-12 opponents to 5-for-38 shooting on three-pointers.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— He may have scored more points, but Andrews has never been better. At least, he’s never been more clutch. He scored 12 of Washington’s last 18 points. He finished with a team-high 19 that’s two shy of his personal best. He sank 8 of 14 shots. Andrews missed 3 of 4 three-pointers, but he was sensational curling off of screens and draining mid-range jumpers. He also had three rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block, which offset three turnovers in 36 minutes.
Romar on Andrews: “We usually talk about our defensive identity and things like that. Tonight I would really have to give hats off to (Andrew) and how he came through when we were having trouble scoring the ball.”
— It usually falls to C.J. Wilcox to carry the Huskies to a win and for awhile it looked as if he would do it. But Utah face-guarded Wilcox in the first half with 5-10 guard Brendon Taylor who followed him everywhere he went. After burying back-to-back three-pointers, Wilcox had to contend with 6-5 Princeton Onwas who also played tight defense. Still, Wilcox was efficient (5 of 10 from the field, 4 of 6 on three-pointers) if not prolific. He finished with 14 points and three rebounds in 39 minutes.
Andrews on Wilcox: “The more people are going to be focusing in on him; when I’m playing well it will take a little pressure off him and open him up. So eventually toward the end hopefully they are keying in on me a little bit to get him more shots.”
— Somewhat quiet game for Nigel Williams-Goss, who also came up big in the final minutes. After Utah cut Washington’s lead to two points (52-50) with 3:32 left, the freshman point guard retrieved an inbound pass and raced up the other end and scored a layup in seven seconds before the Utes could set their defense. It was an important basket in a game in which both teams struggled to score. Williams-Goss finished with 13 points, three rebounds and two turnovers in 38 minutes.
— There should be a statistic that gives an assist to the guy who sets a good screen that leads to a basket. The screen is every bit as important as the pass so why not reward players who put their bodies on the line. If that statistic did exist, then Perris Blackwell would be among the Pac-12 leaders. He did a great job using his 6-9, 275-pound frame to free Andrews and Wilcox from defenders. Blackwell also outplayed Jeremy Olsen inside. The UW forward had six points and six rebounds while Olsen finished with 2 and 3.
— Anderson seems to have gotten gun-shy recently. He had a few looks at open shots and hesitated, including his missed three-pointer. But you can’t measure him on his offensive performance because the 6-5 guard is normally matched with bigger forwards. Plus he does his best work on the defensive end. Anderson helped UW hold Loveridge, who had 17 points against the Huskies last year, to a harmless 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
— The reserves (Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Darin Johnson) combined for four points on 2-for-6 shooting and four rebounds.