The Huskies got a glimpse of life without prized freshman forward Isaiah Stewart and for awhile things looked pretty hairy on Friday night.
Still, No. 25 Washington overcame foul trouble, poor perimeter shooting and shoddy ball-handling to claim a 73-56 nonconference win over Montana in a sloppy game that included a combined 52 fouls and 41 turnovers.
“The numbers don’t add up,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “It’s like 1+1 = 9. But I really believe that we competed.
“It’s one of those things where sometimes you have a game where you don’t make a shot or the ball slips out of your hands. But finding ways to win I think is big,”
Considering all that went wrong for Huskies, including 0-for-11 shooting on three-pointers and a season-high 21 turnovers, they were fortunate to escape with their second straight win and improve to 4-1.
While Stewart watched most of the game from the sidelines, Jaden McDaniels (14 points and six rebound) and Nahziah Carter (13 points and seven rebounds) provided enough offense to avoid what would have been an embarrassing defeat.
“When you lose a guy like Isaiah, you add adversity early,” Hopkins said. “It was interesting to see how they would respond and for the most part I thought the kids responded well.
“You’re just trying to find a way. Tonight I had a lot of crazy lineups in. We were rotating players. We’ve been tired and I was just trying to keep energy in the game. And for the most part I thought we played exceptionally hard. I don’t think we played exceptionally smart. We had some unforced turnovers and plays that you just can’t make. But we competed on the defensive end and I was really happy about that.”
Despite playing a season-low 14:41 minutes, Stewart finished with a career-high 18 points and seven rebounds.
Both teams had difficulty adjusting to a tightly officiated game in which three players fouled out, including Carter.
There were three technical fouls and Hopkins needed to be restrained by assistants or else he would have picked up a technical for protesting a foul on Carter, who appeared to record a steal on what would have been a breakaway dunk.
“When you’re competing, every play matters,” Hopkins said. “Those types of plays can be game-changers either way. It’s a hard game to officiate. The kids are so fast and they’re so athletic. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t.”
The Huskies received nearly half of their scoring on free throws while converting 35 of 46 foul shots. Montana was 9 of 13 at the line.
Hopkins gambled early and put Stewart on the court with two fouls at the 11:17 mark in the first half. Twenty-five seconds later, he collected his third foul while attempting to grab an offensive rebound and went to the bench for the remainder of the first half.
Washington built a lead 26-15 and had held Montana in check offensively before allowing the Grizzlies a 14-3 run that tied the score at 29-29 following Sayeed Pridgett’s mid-range jumper with 1:19 left in the first.
During UM’s spurt, Carter picked up his third foul and joined Stewart on the bench.
However, reserve guard Jamal Bey beat the first-half buzzer with a driving layup that put UW on top 31-29 at the break.
Things turned potentially disastrous for the Huskies early in the second half when Stewart collected his fourth foul and Montana took its first lead (32-31) on Pridgett’s three-pointer.
Washington quickly regained control after a couple of baskets by Quade Green, but Montana kept it close until the Huskies used a 14-5 run midway in the second half to stretch their three-point lead (44-41) to 60-46 with 5:54 left.
McDaniels punctuated the 7-minute spurt with a putback dunk to clean up a Carter miss that sent the crowd of 8,370 heading for the exits.
Kendal Manuel scored 15 points and Pridgett had 13 for Montana, which lost its third straight game and fell to 1-4.
“It was a lot of challenging times and you get better through challenging times,” Hopkins said. “It’s priceless to be able get opportunities like this and to be able to teach and win. I don’t think we played great at all. Did we play pretty good in some areas? Yes.
“To be able to win I think is going to be really beneficial for this team.”
Washington goes for three straight wins 7:30 p.m. Sunday when it hosts San Diego.
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that UW scored nearly half its points at the free-throw line, not more than half as originally reported.