Terrence Ross scores five of his team-high 14 points in final three minutes of Washington's win.
SALT LAKE CITY — With all the depth and talent the Washington men’s basketball team has stockpiled in the back court, Terrence Ross may not have many chances to shine like he did Saturday.
It had been a while since he made an important basket, but with the Huskies failing to find their shooting touch and Utah charging in the final minutes, Ross stepped up in the end and bailed out UW.
The sophomore guard scored five of his team-high 14 points in the final three minutes to lift the Huskies to a 57-53 victory in front of 8,887 at the Huntsman Center.
“It feels good, but we still have a long ways to go,” Ross said. “We can’t celebrate this for too long. … It was more of a relief than a celebration.”
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After five straight road losses, Washington (9-6, 3-1 Pac-12) finally broke through and won a game away from home.
In their first Pac-12 game against Utah, the Huskies won despite their offensive struggles. They scored their fewest points this season and shot just 32.3 percent in the first half.
When freshman guard Tony Wroten Jr. and sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox — Washington’s leading scorers — combine for 13 points, that’s normally a recipe for disaster.
Wroten attempted a season-low six shots and finished with eight points, snapping a 12-game streak of scoring in double figures.
Meanwhile, it was a forgettable homecoming for Wilcox, who is from nearby Pleasant Grove, Utah. Back in the starting lineup for the first time in five games, he missed his first eight shots.
“I felt fine shooting the ball,” said Wilcox, who had five points on 2-for-13 shooting. “It just wasn’t falling. One of those days.”
After Thursday’s 87-69 defeat at Colorado, Abdul Gaddy questioned whether the Huskies had the resolve to do what it takes to win on the road.
“We’re not one of those teams that we’re just going to score (a lot) of points on the road,” the junior guard said Thursday. “We got to know how to grind wins out, and right now we don’t know how to do that.”
Against Utah, the Huskies won a slugfest behind a defense that held the Utes to 37.3 percent shooting and forced 12 turnovers.
After trailing by as many as 10 early in the second half, the Utes cut the Huskies’ lead to 43-42 with 9:05 left. But whenever Utah made a run, Ross had an answer.
He drained a three-pointer from the corner to put UW ahead 46-42. And when Utes senior guard Josh Watkins converted a free throw to make the score 50-47, Ross responded again.
The play began with Gaddy, who drove along the baseline and passed to Desmond Simmons in the post. The redshirt freshman forward stumbled and whipped the ball to Ross, who drained a three-point shot from the top of the key with two seconds left on the shot clock.
It was Ross’ biggest basket since hitting a midrange jumper at Madison Square Garden that nearly beat Marquette.
This time, the Huskies hung on for the win.
“I was spotting up to make sure to be an outlet,” Ross said. “I’m just happy that Dez saw me when he did. Dez does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score.
“He does everything Husky basketball means. He scraps. He plays defense. He’s a warrior on the boards. That’s what we need more of for us to win games like this.”
After Ross’ three-pointer, Utah made one final push. Utes junior guard Cedric Martin nailed a shot behind the arc with 12 seconds left to cut UW’s lead to 55-53.
On Washington’s final possession, Ross made two free throws to secure the win.
Watkins finished with a game-high 18 points and Martin added 11 for Utah (4-11, 1-2).
The Huskies are thrilled to return to Seattle with a road split even if they struggled against the Utes, who were picked to finish last in the Pac-12.
“Regardless of what people think or how good people say they are, we had to beat them in their home,” said Simmons, who finished with 10 rebounds and six points. “That’s all that counts.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @percyallen
Percentages: FG .429, FT .529. Three-point goals: 6-15, .400 (Ross 3-5, Gant 1-1, Gaddy 1-2, Wilcox 1-5, Simmons 0-1, Wroten 0-1). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 4 (Ross 2, Kemp Jr. 2). Turnovers: 8 (Wroten 2, Kemp Jr., Ross, Simmons, Gaddy, N’Diaye). Steals: 6 (Wroten 2, Wilcox, Ross, Gant, N’Diaye). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .373, FT .611. Three-point goals: 4-15, .267 (Martin 3-4, Hines 1-7, Washburn 0-1, Watkins 0-3). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 2 (Wilkinson, Farr). Turnovers: 12 (Watkins 5, Storey 3, Washburn 2, Dawson, Hines). Steals: 4 (Watkins 3, Dawson). Technical fouls: None.
Attendance: 8,887. Officials: Mike Littlewood, David Hall, Milt Stowe.