Andrew Andrews scores 29 points, Dejounte Murray adds 25 as the Huskies hold off the Cougars, 99-95, in overtime in Pullman. UW remains perfect in Pac-12 play after its third straight conference win.
PULLMAN – If Washington men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar is accurate and the young Huskies continue to improve, then that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the Pac-12.
As it is, Washington – the team picked to finish 11th in a preseason media poll – is pretty good while sitting alone in first place in the conference after two weeks.
Of course, climbing to the top of the league hasn’t been easy.
Once again the Huskies needed to recover from a sluggish defensive start, overcome foul trouble and make just enough plays in the final minutes to claim another dramatic win.
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On Saturday afternoon, Washington pulled away from Washington State in overtime for a nail-biting 99-95 victory in front of a boisterous 4,024 at Beasley Coliseum that included Gov. Jay Inslee, a UW alum, and his wife Trudi, a WSU graduate.
It was a statement win for a Huskies team that included seven freshmen playing their first Pac-12 road game.
“I said one day we were going to get it, but I didn’t know when we were going to get it and we still haven’t gotten it yet,” Romar said. “But because of our effort and because of our belief, and our guys play together and stick together, we’re just able to get by enough until we’re able to get better.
“I think this team will continue to get better. This was another first for us and a challenge. It was a road game, a true road game. And our guys came out on top.”
To win their third straight game, the Huskies needed to survive a 28-point onslaught from junior guard Ike Iroegbu and a magnificent outing from junior forward Josh Hawkinson, who finished with 21 points and 20 rebounds.
Washington countered with Dejounte Murray, who led the way early, and Andrew Andrews, who came up big at the end. Murray scored 16 of his 25 points in the first half while Andrews, the Pac-12 scoring leader, scored 17 of his game-high 29 in the second half and OT.
The Huskies also received stout play inside from forwards Noah Dickerson (16 points) and reserve Malik Dime (14).
As good as Washington was Saturday, Romar said: “We can be better than we are right now.”
Right now, the Huskies (11-4 overall and 3-0 in Pac-12) are the only team with a perfect conference record.
At the midpoint of the regular season, it’s fair to say they’re ahead of projections. And they’ve matured immensely in the past two weeks.
“We’ve seen a lot,” Romar said. “We’ve seen some very adverse situations.”
The Huskies trailed 49-43 at halftime, but considering Washington State shot 54.8 percent in the first half and Washington’s foul troubles, UW was fortunate to be down by just six points at halftime.
For the fourth straight game, the Huskies were behind at the break. In the two previous outings, they raced away at the end with a double-overtime win over UCLA and a comeback victory against USC after being down 22 points.
Washington looked as if it would cruise to a victory when David Crisp’s layup gave it an 83-73 lead with 4:24 remaining in regulation.
But the Cougars closed the second half with a 14-4 run to force overtime.
“That’s part of our ups and downs,” said Andrews, who had 10 rebounds and seven assists. “We’re still learning how to control success.”
Despite four Huskies fouling out, UW outscored WSU 12-8 in overtime, thanks to Andrews, who had six in the extra period.
“We tried like crazy to get Andrews out of the game because we knew he had the ability to control the game down the stretch,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said.
Iroegbu had a chance to tie the score, but his 17-foot jumper rattled in and out with five seconds left. Andrews wrestled the rebound away from Hawkinson and nailed two free throws to seal the win.
The Cougars (9-6, 1-2) also lamented their 62.2 percent free-throw shooting. Washington State was 23 of 37 at the line, including 4 of 7 in overtime. Washington shot 76.7 percent at the charity stripe, including 6 of 8 in overtime.
“It came down to free-throw shooting in a hard, hard-fought battle,” Kent said. “That was a great game and a great environment. They made theirs and we didn’t make ours down the stretch and that was the difference in the game.”
|The Huskies are the only undefeated team in Pac-12 play.|
|Saturday’s scoresUW 99, WSU 95, OTUCLA 81, Arizona St. 74USC 103, Arizona 101 (4 OT)California vs. Oregon St.|