The Washington men’s basketball team climbed out of 13-point hole and shut down Cal State Fullerton in the final minutes for an 84-76 victory.
Following an ill-advised script that’s proved surprisingly successful so far, the Huskies fell into another double-digit deficit early, rallied late and held on for their seventh consecutive home win.
“I’m sick of talking about it,” Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins said following an 84-76 win over Cal State Fullerton. “It seems like it’s the same story every game. (We) got to have better starts.”
Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Hopkins made a New Year’s resolution for the Huskies. He hoped UW would finally play with resolve and purpose for the entire 40 minutes of its nonconference finale.
“It ended up being 15,” Hopkins bemoaned. “So we’ll move forward and try to get better. I do know we’re a good team. And I know in our league we can win every game we play, and we’re excited that it’s going to start.”
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The Huskies (9-4) have trailed at halftime in eight of their 13 games and came from behind to win five times.
Against Cal State Fullerton, Washington went into the break down 42-34.
And things looked bleak for the Huskies early in the second half when the Titans scored on three straight layups to go up 50-37 with 17:13 remaining.
“At halftime (Hopkins) definitely made a point of emphasis to not only be aggressive on offense, but on defense as well,” said sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, who finished with a team-high 20 points and six assists. “They were getting to a lot of spots that they wanted. We made sure to run them off the line and made sure they didn’t get all the way to the hoop.”
Down 13 points, the Huskies used an 18-5 run to turn the momentum and get the crowd of 5,038 at Alaska Airlines Arena into the game.
David Crisp capped the comeback on wild sequence in which he had a layup blocked, which resulted in a scramble for the loose ball as players dived for the ball.
Noah Dickerson made the recovery and flipped a pass while lying on his back to Crisp who drained a three-pointer to tie the score at 55-55.
Minutes later, Nahziah Carter gave the Huskies their first lead since the opening minutes when he sank a midrange jumper and a free throw for a 60-59 lead.
“It’s no coincidence that whenever we go on our runs and the energy is going and the crowd is into it … we’re getting stops,” said Crisp, who had 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting. “We’re running. There’s flow. We’re moving the ball. Guys are taking good shots. We’re getting good looks at the rim.
“The defense started to swell up, and we’re getting more and more stops. That was definitely a big turning point.”
Another key factor for the Huskies is making three-point shots, which has been a problem this season.
Washington converted just 6 of 21 behind the arc on Tuesday, but each one felt like a dagger.
Tied 66-66, Dominic Green drained a three-pointer in the corner to give Washington the lead for good. His basket began an 18-10 run for the Huskies.
Washington had six players score in double digits, including Dickerson (16 points), Matisse Thybulle (13), Carter (10) and Green (10).
Khalil Ahmad scored 28 points, Jackson Rowe had 22 and Kyle Allman Jr. 15 for the Titans, which fell to 4-10.
The Huskies outscored the Titans 50-34 in the second half.
“Some days we come out kind of sluggish, but we end up picking it up,” Nowell said. “But we definitely need to start figuring out to how to start games the way we finish.”