The star freshman had 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as Washington won 92-86. Western Michigan had a big game from Garfield grad Tucker Haymond, who had 28 points.
The Huskies needed something — anything — to wake them out of a funk that’s been hanging over them like a dark cloud for 3½ weeks and through most of Sunday’s game.
In danger of losing its fifth straight game, Markelle Fultz saved the Washington men’s basketball team once again with late-game heroics that has defined his brief tenure with UW.
The 6-foot-4 freshman guard from Marlboro, Md., scored 10 of the final 15 points for the Huskies while leading them to a 92-86 victory over Western Michigan.
Tuesday: Cal Poly @ Washington, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Thursday: Washington @ Seattle University, KeyArena, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 1: Washington State @ Washington, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU
Wednesday, Jan. 4: Oregon @ Washington, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Saturday, Jan. 7: Oregon State @ Washington, noon, Pac-12 Networks
“He’s always had a flair for that,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “When the game is on the line, he has that ability to find a way.”
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Washington trailed by three points in the final six minutes when Fultz took over and buried the Broncos with a scoring barrage that included a dribble-drive layup, a dunk in traffic, a short jumper and a few free throws.
Add in a highlight block at the rim earlier in the half and a late offensive rebound that sealed the victory and Fultz finished with yet another spectacular all-around performance.
“I felt like I was making a lot of plays because my shot wasn’t falling at first,” said Fultz, who flirted with a triple double for the fourth time. “I was just playing the game and doing what I had to do to help my team win.”
Fultz had 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting, 10 rebounds and eight assists in 37 minutes.
Meanwhile, David Crisp added 15 points, including three three-pointers.
Down 80-77, Fultz began his one-man onslaught with a layup that proceeded the play of the night — Fultz’s dribble drive through the middle of the defense en route to a dunk over Western Michigan guard Josh Davis that seemed to wake up the dormant crowd of 7,129 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
After the Broncos regained the lead, Fultz connected with Noah Dickerson (12 points and eight rebounds) for a layup that gave the Huskies an 83-82 lead with 3:48 left and put them up for good.
Dominic Green, who came off the bench and chipped in 16 points, drained a three-pointer on UW’s next possession to push the lead to four.
And Fultz, who scored 19 points in the second half, took care of the rest of the scoring for the Huskies down the stretch.
They put the ball in his hands and got out of the way, which gave him room to either dribble around the Broncos for layups or draw fouls.
Fultz sank 3 of 5 free throws in the final 2:16.
“When it’s on the line, he may make the assist, he may make the shot, he may hit a big three or he may get a blocked shot like he did,” Romar said.
Washington held an 89-86 lead in the final minute when backup center Malik Dime missed a dunk. Fultz secured the rebound and converted a short floater that put the Huskies up 89-84.
On the ensuing possession, Dime blocked Thomas Wilder’s layup attempt and Fultz secured the rebound before capping the scoring with a free throw.
“It was real big for us,” Fultz said of the win that snapped UW’s four-game losing streak. “We never come into games trying to lose. We just came off this losing spurt. We had a long practice this week waiting for this game to come. I’m just happy that we got it, but we know we got stuff we need to work on.”
The Huskies, which entered the game ranked 332nd in points allowed at 82.6 per game, nearly succumbed to a blistering performance from former Garfield High star Tucker Haymond.
He finished with a career-high 28 points for Western Michigan (3-7), which shot 50 percent from the field.
“We’re comfortable giving up 72 points,” Romar said. “We want to hold teams under 41 percent (shooting). We’re not doing either right now. Again, we had stretches where we did a fine job, but it wasn’t consistent enough.”
When it mattered most, the Huskies (5-5) were able to get defensive stops.
After surrendering 80 points in 34 minutes, Washington held Western Michigan to just six points in the final six minutes. The Broncos converted just 2 of 6 and had a turnover during that span.
“Malik did a great job protecting the basket,” Romar said. “That really helped. We kind of changed defenses down the stretch trying to keep them off balance and I think that helped.”