Relying on an offensive surge in the 2nd half isn't a sustainable strategy. And yet Washington keeps doing it as they overcame an 11-point halftime deficit with 50 2nd half points to defeat Cal Poly by a score of 74-68. Keion Brooks Jr. had 30 points including 23 in the 2nd half to move Washington to 8-3 (1-1) on the season.
PJ Fuller stepped into a 3-pointer on the first possession of the game but it would be the last Husky bucket for a while. Cal Poly meanwhile scored on their first 5 possessions including a few 3-pointers following offensive boards to get out to a 12-3 lead. Hopkins was not happy with the effort, calling an early timeout and making several very early substitutions.
Langston Wilson finally ended UW's 4+ minute scoring drought with a putback dunk and end the 12-0 Cal Poly run. Braxton Meah started to take over down low not making his shots but drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. The defense though couldn't get stops to let UW cut into the lead. Bryan Penn-Johnson had a thunderous dunk on a play in which Langston Wilson went down with an ankle injury and did not return. Cal Poly continued their hot shooting hitting 6 of 8 early 3's to go up 29-14 after 13 minutes.
The injuries continued to mount as Cole Bajema dove out of bounds for a loose ball and ended up saving it to Cal Poly. He tweaked something and left the game holding his lower leg. In the meantime Cal Poly's 3-pt shooting slowed down but they continued to rebound nearly every miss and keep even with the anemic Husky offense. Bajema re-entered the game about 6 minutes of game clock later with a wrap on his right calf but UW trailing 35-24 which ended up the score at halftime.
The Dawgs went into the break being outrebounded by double digits and shooting 25% as a team. A 12-2 free throw advantage was the only thing keeping them remotely in the game.
The 2nd half started in just about the same manner with Cal Poly taking 27 seconds off the shot clock and then draining a 3-pointer. UW though made their first sustained run of the game from there with 3 straight makes in the paint for a quick 6-0 run to finally cut the lead to single digits. Jackson Grant got in the game for the 1st time, gave up a putback, and was immediately pulled again (his only 15 seconds of playing time).
Washington’s typical 2nd half surge continued as Keion Brooks and Cole Bajema hit back-to-back 3's with the second coming after Menifield pushed the pace off a Cal Poly miss. The Mustangs called timeout with the UW deficit down to just 42-38 with 14:46 remaining.
Cal Poly started to pull away again as Bryan Penn-Johnson had a few dunks after their guards got penetration to draw Meah away from the rim. UW kept coming though as Fuller hit a deep 3 late in the shot clock. Then Keion Brooks Jr. completed the old fashioned 3-point play and suddenly UW trailed just 51-50 with 9:48 left. Hec Ed finally got loud and Cal Poly called timeout to stem momentum. It didn't seem to help as out of the timeout UW forced a shot clock violation and then Braxton Meah got a layup to give UW its first lead since the opening basket.
Keyon Menifield got it done on both ends with his 2nd block of the game followed by a nice assist for a Meah dunk inside. Washington had a golden chance to put the game away as on consecutive possessions Bajema and Menifield left their defenders in the dust for open 3's. Both missed. Cal Poly however made their first 3 in over 10 minutes to tie the game at 58. Keion Brooks Jr. kept the Husky clinging to a narrow lead with 3 makes on turn around midrange jumpers.
Coming out of the under 4 break, UW beat the press and PJ Fuller couldn't get a layup attempt to fall. He crashed into the camera row and was clearly shaken up and had to leave the game (the 3rd Husky to do so). Cal Poly tied the game back up in a quiet arena but Brooks answered with a drive and an and-1 layup to put UW back up 63-60. Cole Bajema and Keion Menifield added on layups between Cal Poly misses and UW found themselves up 7 with 1 minute left and in comfortable position. UW wasn't in the double bonus yet which always makes things tricky but the Huskies made their free throws to kill the suspense. Even though they let Cal Poly score 3 consecutive layups on possessions that took less than 5 seconds while trying not to foul.
Brooks Jr.'s led all scorers with a career high 30 points and had his best game as a Husky. Cole Bajema (13 pts) and Braxton Meah (11 pts) joined him in double figures. Meah also had 6 of Washington's 11 blocks.
The Huskies return to the court on Saturday when they take on Idaho State. It will be the last buy game before a 3-game gauntlet of Auburn, USC, and UCLA.