Jaylen Nowell scored 20 points for the Huskies, who make 9 of 19 three-pointers and improve to 3-1 in Pac-12 play with a home victory.
With a second left on the shot clock, David Crisp didn’t have many offensive options.
So the Husky junior guard did what he does best and shot an off-balance, high-arcing three-pointer that beat the buzzer and fell perfectly into the net.
It was that kind of night for UW, which entered Thursday’s Pac-12 home opener having converted just 4 of 39 three-pointers in its previous two outings.
Turns out the Huskies’ perimeter shot was not irrevocably broken. They just needed a little home cooking.
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Playing its first game inside Alaska Airlines Arena in three weeks, Washington sank nearly half of its three-pointers and held on for a 66-56 victory over California in front of 5,804.
Despite committing 20 turnovers and failing to corral Golden Bears freshman forward Justice Sueing, who finished with a game-high 27 points, the Huskies led for more than 29 minutes and hung on to win when they weren’t at their best.
“I didn’t think we played well tonight,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “Cal missed foul shots. I felt like our offense during stretches wasn’t good. It reminded me of an early-season game where it didn’t feel like there was a flow.
“It was ugly. We allowed pressure. We had a lot of turnovers. But we found a way to win, which I’m happy for.”
Jaylen Nowell finished with 20 points and Noah Dickerson added 12 for the Huskies, who improved to 13-4 and 3-1 in the Pac-12. The Bears fell to 7-10, 1-3.
Washington converted 9 of 19 three-pointers, including two from Crisp, who finished with 10 points. His improbable 25-footer symbolized UW’s outing.
Hopkins had found answers on the bench in each of UW’s previous two Pac-12 wins when Dominic Green triggered a victory at USC and Carlos Johnson helped stage a comeback last Saturday at Washington State.
This time a pair of backup freshmen named Carter provided a spark as the Huskies’ bench outscored the Bears’ reserves 18-2.
Nahziah Carter, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored 10 points and sank two three-pointers while Michael Carter III, a 6-4 guard, proved invaluable as a ballhandler in the second half against Cal’s backcourt press.
“I thought Michael was great,” Hopkins said. “What we needed to do at the end was not turn it over, get it up the court and get into a set.”
Michael Carter, who played just his second game since missing 11 because of a fractured left hand, also sank a three-pointer – his first of the season – as time expired in the first half.
“My recovery went really well, my physical therapy went really well,” Michael Carter said. “I’m just glad to be back.”
Momentum swung toward the Huskies midway in the second half when Cal’ leading scorer Don Coleman complained about an official’s call, drew a technical and was disqualified with five fouls. The junior guard finished with a season-low tying four points – nearly 15 fewer than his season average.
At the time, UW led 41-38 with 12:47 left.
Nowell canned the ensuing two free throws and Dickerson followed with a layup that put UW ahead 45-38.
With Coleman out of the game, the Huskies used an 18-5 run to put the game away.
The spurt included Crisp’s long dagger off an inbounds pass and another rainbow three-pointer from the corner on the next possession.
“I knew it was going in right when it left his hand, honestly,” Nowell said when asked about Crisp’s buzzer-beater. “And after that you could just see them kind of put their heads down, and that was when we chose to keep attacking them.”
Nahziah Carter capped Washington’s decisive run with a midrange jumper that put UW ahead 59-43 at the 7:01 mark.
From there, the Huskies had difficulties handling Cal’s backcourt press. Nowell committed six turnovers while Crisp and Matisse Thybulle each had three.
Washington never allowed the margin to get closer than 10 points the rest of the way in part because of the Bears’ misadventures at the free throw line where they converted 7 of 17 free throws. UW was 13 of 19 at the stripe and 50 percent from the field.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way again,” Hopkins said. “I give the guys a lot of credit, but I just want more.”
Washington plays Stanford at 5 p.m. Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena.