Knocking down free throws hasn’t exactly been a strong suit for Washington so far this season. Despite that, the Dawgs made 19 of 21 in the 2nd half including 6 of 6 in the final minute to preserve a 77-74 win over the George Mason Patriots. The Huskies nearly blew an 8-point lead in the final 3 minutes but the duo of Terrell Brown Jr. (23 points) and PJ Fuller (21 points) saved the day for the Dawgs. Washington improves to 3-2 on the year while George Mason falls to 4-2.
Scoring in the halfcourt set has been like pulling teeth for Washington’s offense but Jamal Bey on the first possession was able to work the ball inside with an up and under move to give UW the early 2-0 lead. George Mason countered with a made 3-pointer against the zone and from there the teams traded baskets as neither team had more than a 1-point lead for the first 3 and a half minutes.
George Mason though found an open man with his feet set in the corner and hit the 3 and after a Bey turnover Josh Oduro worked Nate Roberts inside to put the Patriots up 10-6 on the Dawgs.
Washington got going though when PJ Fuller entered off the bench. The stadium in Sioux Falls hosts G-League games so there are high school, college, and NBA 3-point lines. Fuller would’ve been fine if there was a 4th even deeper line on the court. He knocked down consecutive 3’s a few feet behind the NBA line the latter of which tied the game at 14. Then Jamal Bey got in the action with a corner 3 to put Washington in front 17-14. After George Mason closed within one Fuller decided to make it a trifecta with a 3rd made 3-pointer of the half.
The Patriots made quick work of Washington’s 4-point lead though as Josh Oduro got another layup down low and Davonte Gaines swished a pair of free throws. That tied the game at 20 with 6:07 left in the half.
Washington’s defense kicked it up a notch from that point though. Daejon Davis hit a shot clock buzzer beating 3 and after a missed George Mason 3 on the other end Terrell Brown Jr. got the long rebound. He raced downcourt and beat everyone to the rim for a layup to put UW up by 5. Washington then forced a pair of steals on consecutive possessions. The first led to an alley-oop slam from Brown to Matthews. The second was your run of the mill transition dunk on a bounce pass from Brown to Davis prompting a George Mason timeout to counter the 9-0 Husky run.
George Mason was finally able to get a 3rd chance opportunity on a kickout and made a wide open 3 to end their scoring drought. Those would be the last points of the half for George Mason as Washington split a pair of free throw attempts in the last few possessions to head to the break with a 31-23 lead.
PJ Fuller led the Huskies with 9 points and 3 rebounds off the bench while George Mason’s Josh Oduro had 10 points and 5 rebounds carrying the load down low. Washington at the break was shooting 45% on 3’s compared to George Mason’s 23% which was a complete reversal of early season results. The free throw shooting was less of a reversal as Washington was just 2/7 from the line including a miss on the front end of a 1-and-1.
Almost instantly in the second half any illusion that the Huskies would be able to coast to an easy win was dispelled. George Mason hit a pair of 3’s quickly to close it to 31-29 with 18:39 left in the game. Washington meanwhile missed several 3’s despite good ball movement and a George Mason layup tied the game at 63.
The rim finally came uncovered as Terrell Brown Jr who isn’t normally much of a long distance threat was so wide open he relented to let fire and made the 3 to put the Huskies back on top. George Mason kept coming but could never quite get over the hump. The Patriots tied the game at 36, 38, and 40 as the teams traded scores. After Brown made a pair of free throws to make it 42-40 Washington put on their full court press for the first time. It allowed Brown to get a steal and after getting fouled he made another pair of foul shots to open up a 2-possession lead again with 12:54 left.
Josh Oduro continued to be money at the line for George Mason despite coming in shooting 46% on the season to keep things close. Finally Washington’s defense started coming up big again as the Dawgs stole the ball on 3 consecutive possessions. 2 of them resulted in transition layups which stretched the Washington lead out to 53-46. PJ Fuller had a chance for a dagger open corner transition 3-point attempt but it didn’t fall and George Mason answered with a 3 on their end to once again keep UW from cracking it open.
After a pair of PJ Fuller free throws George Mason hit another 3 with a hand in their face to pull within just 3 points. Fuller showed off a Matisse Thybulle move though jumping the passing lane and coasting to an easy transition dunk. George Mason countered making their next 2 shots and once again push it to a 1-point lead just never quite getting over the hump.
With 5 minutes left Terrell Brown Jr. attempted to call game single handedly. He scored 6 straight points on an array of midrange moves to balloon the lead up to 68-60 with 3:23 remaining. Surely that meant an easy stress-free win, right? Not with this team.
George Mason hit their next 4 shots and scored 10 points in 2 and a half minutes. The last of those came after Daejon Davis just lost the ball trying to pass it and George Mason raced down court for an in rhythm transition 3 which brought it to 71-70 with 46 seconds remaining. Fortunately Washington figured out how to make free throws. PJ Fuller and Terrell Brown Jr. combined to go 6/6 from the line in the final minute and Fuller blocked a desperate 3-point heave at the buzzer to preserve the 77-74 victory.
Brown finished with game high 23 points to go along with 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. PJ Fuller had a dominant game of his own with 21 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Daejon Davis was the only other Husky in double figures with 10 points and 4 assists. Josh Oduro and Devon Cooper each had 21 points for George Mason.
The Huskies were outrebounded 36-28 but held a 14-8 turnover advantage and their late free throws kept things even at that end of the court (21 makes each) to allow for the win. George Mason was 6 of 9 from 3-pt range in the second half to enable their comeback attempt but it wasn’t quite enough. Washington’s ball movement was much better tonight as they had a season high 15 assists with at least one from 6 different players.
Washington returns to the court in Sioux Falls tomorrow night at 6:30p to take on the local South Dakota State Jackrabbits. SDSU obliterated Nevada 102-75 in their tournament opener and expect to see a high tempo supercharged offense take on the Dawgs.