ANAHEIM, Calif. — It took the Washington men’s basketball team nearly five minutes to get on the scoreboard Wednesday night.

The Huskies missed four three-pointers and two layups — seven shots total — before PJ Fuller II stopped abruptly in the paint and launched an off-balance contested midrange jumper that rattled into the rim.

Washington recovered from an abysmal offensive performance in the first half and pulled away from Fresno State in the second half for a 62-57 nonconference victory in their opener at the Wooden Legacy.

“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a rock fight, an old-school rock fight,” UW coach Mike Hopkins said. “They pride themselves … on the defensive end. They’re tough. They have guys that play multiple positions.

“(Fresno State) coach (Justin) Hutson is one of the best defensive coaches. We knew what it was going to be like. The first half was a little bit of struggle offensively for us. We got some wiggle room and was able to hold on to a hard-fought win.”   

Washington (4-1), which snapped a three-game losing streak against Fresno State (1-4), will play St. Mary’s at 9:30 p.m. Thursday for the Wooden Legacy title. 


“It would mean everything to get one more win down here,” said Keion Brooks Jr., who finished with a game-high 16 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two steals. “We had a little setback (last week) so to sort of right the ship and get two wins against quality opponents would be good for us to come out of the Thanksgiving break the right way.” 

The tale-of-two-halves analogy accurate depicts UW’s latest outing.

After connecting on 10 of 30 shots, including 2 of 11 three-pointers, Washington trailed 28-27 at the break.

The first half included 12 lead changes and the Huskies never had more than a one-point advantage in the first 20 minutes.

“Yeah, tale of two halves,” Hopkins said. “We really couldn’t make a shot, but I told them regardless of what happens, we got to play defense. The coaching staff did a great job of keeping these guys confident where it’s not like missed shots affects your defense. It was, have some courage. Knock down those shots and we did.” 

Washington began the second half with six unanswered points to ignite a momentum-swinging 21-6 run for a 48-34 lead with 11:39 left. 

Once the Huskies took the lead, they never looked back. 


Fresno State closed the gap to 57-52 in the final four minutes and the Bulldogs had a chance to close within two points, but missed five straight shots — including four three-pointers — on their next possession, which epitomized their second-half shooting woes. 

“It’s one of those things where it’s a scramble,” Hopkins said. “The one thing we’re trying to do is we’re trying to take away the three-point shot in those situations. They get one offensive rebound and we’re a little discombobulated and guys were trying to figure out where we were supposed to be.  

“But that’s how Fresno plays and you got to give them a lot of credit. They were going after it. We knew that if we could match their toughness … then we would put ourselves in position to win the game.” 

The Bulldogs shot 47.8% in the first half and the Huskies held them to 31.6% shooting in the second half. Meanwhile, Washington shot 42.9% in the second half. 

Hopkins took exceptional pride in UW’s defense, which forced 20 turnovers. He credited Fuller for setting the tone defensively and estimated the Huskies took eight charges for offensive fouls. 

“I’ve never been a part of a zone team that’s taken that,” said Hopkins, who spent 21 years as a Syracuse assistant. “And that was just them being locked in and disciplined. And it always starts with PJ.” 


Fuller added: “They were definitely over-dribbling. We realized that they were getting in the lane and jumping off one foot. So I kind of just put my body on the line and everybody just followed. We just stepped up and made big plays on the defensive end because that’s how the coaches said how we were going to win the game.” 

Washington’s defense exploited a short-handed FSU team missing senior point guard Isaiah Hill (concussion). Isaiah Moore led the Bulldogs with 15 points. 

“The 21 turnovers, I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, but I would say it was disappointing,” Hutson said. “Most of them were unforced. Just coming down and running over guys.” 

For Washington, it was a stark reversal after suffering an embarrassing 73-64 upset loss to Cal Baptist last week. 

“Winning is hard in college basketball,” Hopkins said. “There’s so many good teams. There’s so many good coaches. There’s so many good players. With the transfer portal now teams become different. The one thing we try to focus with our guys is how do we become better?  

“Tonight we took a step up in the sense that we didn’t play great offensively. … We had to learn how to win against a really good coach and a really good team when we were not having a great offensive night. And when you can do that, you’re showing signs mentally we’re where we need to be. And we’ll get better on the offensive end.”