Ahead by 17 points and with its fourth straight blowout win firmly in hand, No. 22 Washington certainly didn’t need Jaden McDaniels’ three-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining in a 75-55 victory over South Dakota on Monday night.
It was a questionable decision and perhaps a lapse in judgment by the freshman forward in what was otherwise another brilliant performance by the 19-year-old Huskies star.
For the second straight game, McDaniels tallied 20 points, canned two three-pointers and shot at least 50% from the field while carrying UW offensively during the first half.
“I thought he was more aggressive getting to the basket a little bit more than he was in terms of shooting,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “There was good balance with that. It goes back to space. I always say sometimes you’ve got to let your artist paint. Sometimes good coaching is getting out of the way.”
Washington’s other standout freshman, Isaiah Stewart, posted his second career double-double and finished with 16 points and a personal-best 15 rebounds to keep the Huskies (6-1) perfect at home in front of 7,178 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I’m rebounding for my teammates and my coaches,” said Stewart who also had three blocks. “I know how important these wins are, so I’m just doing everything I can to help the team win.”
Hopkins altered the starting lineup for the first time this season and replaced junior forward Hameir Wright with Jamal Bey, who responded with a career-high 14 points in his first start.
“I was just ready for my opportunity no matter if I was coming off the bench or starting,” said Bey, who learned he was starting minutes before the game. “I was just ready.”
The sophomore guard, who tallied a team-high 20 points in UW’s exhibition victory over Western Washington on Oct. 31, had been in a season-long scoring slump while averaging just 3.7 points.
Despite entering the game shooting 14.3% (1 of 7) on three-pointers, Bey came out firing and connected on a pair of deep shots in the opening minutes.
“I don’t even know my stats, honestly,” Bey said. “I just go out there and play my hardest and shoot shots. I know I can make the shots. And I have confidence in every shot that I shoot.”
Bey’s 4-of-6 shooting from the floor and especially his 2-for-4 performance behind the arc was an unexpected boost for UW’s sagging perimeter attack that entered the game shooting 28.4% and ranked 11th in the Pac-12 and 304th nationally.
Washington didn’t shoot the lights out while draining 8 of 22 (36.4%) three-pointers. But surprisingly the Huskies outshot South Dakota, which is the top three-point shooting team in the country.
The Coyotes converted 4 of 23 three-pointers against a UW team ranked last in the Pac-12 and 321st nationally in 3-point defense.
“Defending the 3-point shot is a really important thing in college basketball and it’s important for us,” Hopkins said. “It’s what we stress everyday. It hasn’t been great so far, but tonight it was pretty good.”
South Dakota led 21-19 with 7:09 remaining in the first half before UW ended the half with a 13-2 spurt that included an 11-0 run and a 5½-minute scoring drought by the Summit League team.
Washington, which led 32-23 at halftime, extended its advantage to 16 points (39-23) after McDaniels dished to Stewart for a fast-break dunk early in the second half.
The Coyotes closed to four points (56-52) with 5:40 left before the Huskies finished the game with a decisive 19-3 run. UW converted 4 of its final 5 field goals while USD made one of its final eight shots.
With the game clock winding down (and plenty of time on the shot clock), players were walking off the court and Hopkins was about to shake hands with the South Dakota coaching staff when McDaniels fired in one last unnecessary 3-pointer.
“I didn’t see it,” Hopkins said. “I don’t think he would do anything to demean the other team.”
Washington junior guard Nahziah Carter, who had nine rebounds and scored all of his 12 points in the second half, canned three 3-pointers and collected three steals.
Stanley Umude led South Dakota (6-3) with 17 points, Cody Kelley had 11 and Tyler Hagedorn 10, which was eight fewer than his scoring average.
Washington hosts Eastern Washington on Wednesday in the fifth game of a seven-game homestand.
The Huskies have won four straight by an average of 19.3 points, but they can’t afford a setback with No. 9 Gonzaga heading into town for Sunday’s highly-anticipated showdown.
“I’m never satisfied because I know how great we can be,” Stewart said. “If we just work hard everyday, get better every practice, and play hard every game. I’m never satisfied.”