Washington began its Pac-12 home opener Wednesday by forcing Utah to miss its first eight shots and held the Utes scoreless for the first 6:20 of the game.
However, it was the Huskies’ defensive stand on the final play that allowed them to escape Alaska Airlines Arena with a 59-57 victory.
The Huskies absorbed a career-high scoring onslaught from Delon Wright, who had the ball in his hands in the final seconds with a chance to bury the Huskies at the end.
“We did not want them to just get a straight blow-by layup,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Nowadays, with the rules, (players) put the head down and go to the rim. If you touch them, it’s a foul. We did not want to do that.
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“But more than anything, we did not want to give them an open look from the three.”
Trailing by two points, Utah had just 9.2 seconds to get a shot off. Wright got the ball in the back court and dribbled around a screen. Then the Huskies pinned him in the corner with the clock winding down.
With Andrew Andrews extending a hand in his face, the Utes junior guard launched a potential game-winning three-pointer in front of the Utah bench that seemed to hang in the air forever as the crowd of 3,424 held its collective breath, but the shot missed everything.
“We knew they were going to try to give Wright the ball, so we were switching everything,” Andrews said. “We knew he was going to try to win the game or take it to the rack so we were prepared to cut off his drive. It was good defense from our team.”
Wright put on an amazing offensive display while converting 10 of 17 shots for 27 points. He also made 6 of 8 free throws and collected 11 rebounds in 40 minutes.
“He was tremendous,” Utah coach Larry Krystowiak said. “He played every minute of the game and offensively and defensively he was really solid.
“But especially when you are on the road, you have to be more than one guy with a great game. You have to have contributions from some different guys, and I thought that overall we were pretty deficient in what we were trying to do.”
Washington (10-6, 2-1 Pac-12) countered Wright’s one-man show with a three-pronged offensive attack led by Andrews, who drained several midrange jumpers and finished with 19 points.
C.J. Wilcox converted 4 of 6 three-pointers and Nigel Williams-Goss added 13.
For the third consecutive game, the Huskies played suffocating defense while holding the Utes (12-3, 1-2) to 41.5 percent shooting from the field, 1 of 15 on three-pointers (6.7 percent) and just three assists.
The Huskies also forced two shot-clock violations and 12 turnovers.
“It’s getting fun for our guys to play defense,” Romar said.
Washington trailed 43-41 when Andrews put the Huskies up for good with a jumper and a free throw at the 8:44 mark.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard scored 12 of the Huskies’ final 18 points, including a three-pointer with 1:54 left that put them up 59-50.
“Give a lot of credit to Andrew Andrews offensively in the second half,” Romar said. “He kind of put us on his back. When he gets into a zone like that he’s kind of capable of making runs like that.”
However, Huskies’ turnovers and Wright’s scoring created a frenetic finish.
After Dallin Bachynski sank a layup, Andrews lost the ball that led to a Wright dunk. With UW up by five points, Andrews missed a jumper and Wright buried a three-pointer to pull Utah to two points down. On the ensuing possession, Andrews missed the front end of a one-and-one.
However, the Huskies retained possession with 9.2 seconds left.
That’s when Mike Anderson’s pass to Wilcox went 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.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com