Romar's Huskies will remain unbeaten after earning an extremely difficult 81-77 victory over Eastern Washington. Washington trailed throughout most of the contest, including a 42-31 deficit at halftime.
Eastern lived up to its reputation in putting on a show from three-point range in the first half, while the Huskies failed to convert opportunities at the free throw line.
In the second half, Eastern fell mostly cold from the field while attempting to guard a dwindling lead. The Huskies would trim the lead down to five or six points only to watch Eastern hit a dagger three to extend it, and the whole process would start over again. Eventually late turnovers and the clutch free throw shooting of Andrew Andrews proved too much for the Eagles to overcome, and Washington escaped with a hard-earned win.
For Washington, Upshaw continued to block shots and finish at the rim, finishing with six. His free throw shooting was disastrous in the first half, at one point reaching 2-10, but he calmed down and converted at a more acceptable rate down the stretch.
Andrews tallied 18 points, mostly from 12-13 shooting from the free throw line. Without that performance from the line, the Huskies would likely have lost. Williams-Goss chipped in 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in what is becoming the norm from him.
Eastern survived based largely on timely three-point shooting from Ognjen Milijkovic (14 points, 3-6 from deep) and Tyler Harvey (21 points, 5-12). Drew Brandon contributed 16 points and 9 boards. A team that entered the game shooting over 52% from the field shot 36% in the this game, including 33% from deep.
The Huskies have now recorded two straight quality wins as a result of stifling defense and have shown an undeniable knack for securing comeback victories, considering the Wooden Tournament run a few weeks back.
Despite a lack of name recognition, Eastern entered this game ranked 55th in RPI. They figure to compete for the Big Sky title and already have a road win at Indiana, so they have a solid shot to make the NCAA tourney. It will serve as an important quality non-conference win for Washington's tournament resume, which is moderately weak beyond games against SDSU and Oklahoma.
To be honest, with about ten minutes in the second half and Eastern up 58-48, I figured Washington would be taking its first loss of the season. Eastern was playing fundamentally sound basketball and hitting some very difficult shots at all the wrong times. The Huskies proved me wrong, and I'm more convinced than ever that this is going to be a very fun ride.