ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Mike Hopkins and his coaching staff stomped around in Adidas-branded military boots Friday night. He said the footwear will be kept as unique mementos from Washington’s participation in the nationally televised Armed Forces Classic.
Huskies junior Nahziah Carter said he and his men’s basketball teammates were leaving Anchorage with something just as special. Probably more so.
“We’re taking home a trophy, baby,” Carter said.
Anchorage is often called “Seattle North” because of proximity — the three-hour plane ride is considered short by most Alaskans — and a definite love for the Emerald City’s sports teams. That notion became apparent late in Friday’s thrilling Washington comeback and 67-64 upset of No. 16 Baylor at the Alaska Airlines Center.
The majority of the 5,117 people among the announced sellout crowd rooted heartily for the Huskies. In kind, they responded by scoring the game’s final eight points to erase some early doldrums.
Loud chants of “Let’s Go Huskies” weren’t at all hard to decipher.
“This crowd was ecstatic, you couldn’t hear plays and we were out there almost deaf,” said Carter, who finished with a game-high 23 points and sank a pivotal three-pointer to tie the game 64-64 with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining. “These people really gave us a lot at the end of the game.
“We really had no idea but appreciate all the love.”
Hopkins wasn’t as surprised as his players.
“Are you kidding?” Hopkins said. “We learned from recruiting a kid from this area, it’s Seattle’s second home.
“You could feel it, really, really special.”
Washington finished the frantic win and had about two hours to make its return flight to Seattle. It next plays Tuesday when Mount St. Mary’s visits Alaska Airlines Arena.
Despite trailing by as many as 13 points during the second half, Washington chipped away at Baylor’s lead. The Huskies tied the game 64-64 on Carter’s big triple. He converted Jaden McDaniels’ inside-to-outside pass.
McDaniels and fellow freshman phenom Isaiah Stewart shrugged off slow starts and showcased some of the burgeoning talent that could see them selected in the NBA’s top 10 in next year’s draft. McDaniels scored 13 second-half points to finish with 18 in his first collegiate contest.
Stewart scored nine of his 15 points in the second half. His power move in the lane and basket gave Washington only its second lead, 66-64, with 29.3 seconds left. Carter, McDaniels and Stewart also each grabbed seven rebounds.
The Huskies shot 50% from the field in the second half and 45.3% in the game. A few days after Baylor made 18 three-pointers in its season-opening win over Central Arkansas, the Bears drilled only 8 of 21 shots from behind the arc and shot 35.4%.
Washington cleaned up its act in the second half, committing only five turnovers after 15 miscues in the first half.
“We knew if we could just calm down and get shots we’d be in good shape and at least give ourselves a chance,” Hopkins said. “On the defensive end, we’re getting more confident and also finished with 10 blocks.”
Hameir Wright’s five blocks led the Huskies.
Baylor sank three triples in the first five minutes, including back-to-back makes at 16:01 and 15:10. Jared Butler’s fast-break three from the right wing completed the early barrage and opened a 9-5 lead.
McDaniels recorded his first collegiate points with his own three-pointer at 14:20 and Stewart broke into the scoring column at 11:00. His make on the low right block registered the first of what’s likely to be many baskets for the Huskies.
The teams left for the halftime locker room with Baylor holding a 31-24 edge. The Bears led for 17:59 of the first half and led by as many as 10 points. Washington failed to shoot a first-half free throw.
Butler led Baylor with 18 points. Freddie Gillespie totaled a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds).
The fantastic finish shouldn’t soon be forgotten in Anchorage or Seattle.
“At half all we talked about was how bad we had played and we’re only down by a few points,” Carter said. “We just had to keep our heads in it and stay poised.”
– The game’s start was delayed 24 minutes because of live NBA coverage on ESPN.
- Each team wore military-themed uniforms. The Huskies wore purple with names and numbers in a gray and white camouflage, outlined in the familiar gold. Baylor dressed in a white jerseys and shorts combined with a gray camo accent. The Bears’ wardrobe included green and gray trim. The words “Honor,” “Respect,” or “Service” replaced last names on the Baylor jerseys, in a nod to service men and women.