The crowd was unsurprisingly sparse for a game tipping on at 9:30p on Thanksgiving night. That lack of energy seemed to seep into the game as neither Washington nor Saint Mary’s ever found what could be characterized as an offensive groove. Still, the Dawgs made just enough plays to overcome 23 turnovers and force overtime. From there Washington hit a few big shots and held on for a 68-64 upset of the Gaels. Despite going into overtime Washington’s leading scorer, Keion Brooks, had just 12 points in a double double effort. The win moves Washington to 5-1 and secures a title in the 4-team Wooden Legacy tournament.
Washington’s offense continued its struggles in the first half versus Saint Mary’s but fortunately for them, the Gaels matched their ineptitude. For much of the half neither team was able to eclipse a point per minute pace and outside shooting was at a premium. Franck Kepnang made a layup with 13:54 left in the first half to finally end a grueling 4-4 stalemate. Keyon Menifield Jr. made Washington’s first deep shot to put the Huskies up 9-6 but Saint Mary’s answered with their first made 3 to tie it back up.
The Gaels found an open man under the basket who converted to put Saint Mary’s up 15-12 with 7:56 left and Washington finally started to find their groove. True freshman Koren Johnson hit a 3-pointer to conclude a 9-0 Husky run and establish a 6-point Husky lead with 4:54 left. The Gaels were called for a flop just before a Franck Kepnang dunk and Cole Bajema made the resulting technical free throw to go up 7. A little bit later a pair of Keion Brooks free throws put the lead at a game high 8 points at 28-20. Saint Mary’s hit a basket with 5 seconds left to make it 28-22.
No Husky had more than 5 points at the half while Washington had an astounding 12 turnovers. Saint Mary’s though was 2/13 from 3-point range and 0/3 from the free throw line to allow Washington to have a halftime lead.
Coming out of the break Saint Mary’s was able to draw an and-1 layup against Braxton Meah and cut things down to a 1 possession game. Washington answered due to some free throws and a nice runner by Franck Kepnang to extend the UW lead back out to 37-30. The Gaels finally saw another 3-pointer go down and the Huskies for about the 5th time in the game tried a lob to the center in the pick and roll and had it batted away without a foul call for a turnover. Another Saint Mary’s basket suddenly brought it back to within 2 points.
Koren Johnson kept up his strong play, answering by getting fouled and making a tough bank shot after the contact for the and-1. After a Husky turnover the Gaels had a run out but Kepnang sprinted downcourt for the chase down block against the backboard. He then sprinted back the other way for what would have been a put back dunk but the refs first called the foul on the shot attempt and Keion Brooks split a pair of free throws.
Saint Mary’s answered though with a 6-0 run over the next 3 possessions to tie the game up at 43 with 8:45 remaining prompting a Mike Hopkins timeout. Jamal Bey answered, saving what looked like a doomed possession with a difficult step back 3-pointer. Foul trouble started to bite the Huskies. Kepnang picked up his 4th and on the inbounds UW was whistled for their 7th team foul and the Gaels made both free throws after entering the bonus.
PJ Fuller hit a big 3-pointer to keep UW on top but shortly after lost the ball uncontested giving Saint Mary’s a free layup on the other end. After a Jamal Bey layup the refs missed Saint Mary’s Mitchell Saxen clearly dragging his feet for a travel and it resulted in a Gaels 3-pointer to bring it back to 51-50 with 4:30 left. Shortly after Kepnang with 4 fouls couldn’t challenge a layup and Saint Mary’s was back in front. After the refs didn’t call a foul on Koren Johnson’s 3-pt attempt, the Gaels came back down and Mitchell Saxen beat Kepnang in the post again forcing Hop’s last timeout.
The refs again swallowed their whistled as Keion Brooks made a ridiculous falling floater thinking he drew contact. The Gaels answered as Kepnang was whistled for his 5th foul contesting a shot at the rim and was sent to the bench for good with 2:30 remaining. Saint Mary’s made both free throws but Keion Brooks answered with a nice pull up midrange jumper on the other end to keep it to a 1-possession game. Keion Menifield intercepted a crosscourt pass and PJ Fuller made a huge and-1 layup to tie the game at 58 with 50 seconds left.
Let's go PJ!!— Washington Men's Basketball (@UW_MBB) November 25, 2022
Saint Mary’s missed a 3 but got the offensive rebound and reset with a chance to take the last shot. They missed that one as well and Keion Brooks got off a buzzer beater attempt from near half court that didn’t connect, sending things to overtime.
Washington secured the tip in the extra period but predictably a miscommunication between PJ Fuller and Jamal Bey led to the pass heading out of bounds for another Husky turnover. After a Saint Mary’s midrange jumper PJ again turned the ball over trying to find Meah down low. The Gaels missed and after a Keion Brooks offensive rebound he kicked it out to Koren Johnson who hit a huge 3-pointer to put UW back on top 61-60.
The refs continued their uneven game calling Koren for a touch foul on the perimeter as Saint Mary’s nailed both free throws. Braxton Meah kept possession alive for UW with a great offensive rebound but PJ Fuller caught the ball with a foot out of bounds in the corner for, you guessed it, a Husky turnover. On the next Husky possession Braxton Meah was fouled going for a rebound and missed the front end of the 1-and-1 but Saint Mary’s committed a lane violation. Given a re-do, Meah and his unorthodox free throw form sank both to put the Huskies back on top. Meah on the other end finally didn’t bite on a pump fake to block a shot and give UW back the ball with 53 seconds left.
Coming out of a Hopkins timeout, Washington let Brooks back his man down in the post and he hit the turnaround 10-footer to extend the Husky lead to 65-62 with 40 seconds remaining. Saint Mary’s went for the game-tying 3 and it hit the rim twice but bounced off and Braxton Meah came up with the huge rebound. He quickly handed the ball off to PJ Fuller before he could be fouled and he sank both free throws to bring it back to 2-possessions with 15 seconds left. Jamal Bey was fouled up by 3 with 2.8 seconds left and caused some nerves when he missed the first free throw but he made the 2nd and Saint Mary’s desperation 3-pointer was blocked.
Keion Brooks finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds while Koren Johnson had 11 points. PJ Fuller hit the big basket in regulation but finished with 8 of UW’s 23 turnovers. Saint Mary’s finished just 6/28 from 3-point range while committing 16 turnovers themselves.
Washington returns to action on Monday night while hosting Seattle U.
Happy Thanksgiving for the last 11 minutes.