As most eyes were on the Seattle Seahawks Playoff game today, the Washington Huskies (10-8) had a basketball game today versus the California Golden Bears (3-14). Coming off an impressive 17-point victory over Stanford on Thursday night, it would be important for the Huskies to continue some level of momentum and beat the teams at the bottom of the conference, especially at home.
The California Bears play at one of the slowest paces (359 out of 363 teams) in college basketball, which makes each possession more valuable than most games for the Huskies. It would be very important for Washington to take care of the ball and attempt quality shots in this one. The Huskies scored on their first possession by feeding Keion Brooks in the High Post who kicked it out to a wide open Keyon Menifield for three to take an early 3-0 lead.
Keion Brooks would score on his 2nd attempt on one of his signature mid-range pull ups and Keyon Menifield would score again on a slick step back jumper that almost sent 7th year Dejuan Clayton flying to his 8th year on the spot.
California was able to execute their game plan early on by limiting possessions but also had a lot of success with offensive rebounds, which has been a struggle for the Huskies all season. Cal would go into the under-12 Timeout with 5 more shot attempts due to the 4 offensive rebounds early on and a 12-9 early lead.
Cal would also find some success in the middle of the zone as Freshman Forward Grant Newell scored on 3 consecutive high post jumpers to help Cal get out to a 20-14 lead. The Huskies would immediately switch to man-to-man to counter and Newell would end up missing his next shot shortly after.
Keion Brooks had it going early on, scoring on his first 3 field goals including a three-pointer to help pull UW within 20-17. Freshman Koren Johnson had 3 really good looks at the basket early in the game but each one barely bounced out and Cal would make the Huskies pay on the other end with buckets by Lars Thiemann and Monty Bowser. Keyon Menifield almost shook another Cal player out of their shoes with a crossover and pull up jumper from the baseline to give him 7 quick points in the 1st half.
Noah Williams, who barely played in the Stanford game (5 minutes), converted on a top of the key three-pointer after a high ball screen from Braxton Meah. Koren Johnson would tie the ball game up at 25-25 with a Bank shot three-pointer but almost immediately after, Johnson fouled Dejaun Clayton on a three-pointer and 1 for a 4-point play.
Freshman Grant Newell would continue to be a thorn in UW’s side collecting his 3rd offensive board and put back and then would follow with a transition dunk after a Keion Brooks Turnover to give Newell 10 points and 4 boards in the first half. California would end up shooting 5 more field goal attempts with the extra possessions and shoot 44% in the first half compared to only 33% for UW.
California would go into halftime with a 7 point lead at 33-26, similar to last year when Cal was leading UW at Alaska Airlines arena by 7 at halftime as well. Keion Brooks and Keyon Menifield would lead UW in scoring with 7 a piece but only 2 points from 7’1 Braxton Meah who was held without a field goal and 2 points only.
The Second Half Dawgs Strike Again
The Huskies have been a 2nd half team all year and tonight would be no different but California continued their strong play early on by controlling the tempo, as well as hitting timely baskets. Grant Newell continued his first half play with another offensive board and follow up dunk to the frustration of Husky Coaches on the bench.
Noah Williams started to show some of his old flashes during his Super Sophomore year at WSU, with a couple of quick buckets and had a nice entry feed to Braxton Meah for his first field goal of the game. The Huskies were able to pull within 3 and then disaster struck again as the Huskies fouled another three-point shooter for the 2nd time of the game and both times a 4 point play for Cal. California would build out their biggest lead after this and pull out to an 11-point lead in front of a stunned Husky crowd.
The Huskies were finally able to collect a few steals but both times immediately turned it over. It looked like the Huskies were on their way for an easy transition bucket but Cole Bajema threw a cross court pass that was intercepted by Joel Brown for a layup the other way. Keyon Menifield, who is normally so dependable with the ball, had two quick turnovers that also led to California Bear Transition points.
Noah Williams would help the Huskies keep it close by hitting another three-pointer and had his foot on the line minutes later for a deep two-pointer to get Washington within 3. Again, California Freshman Grant Newell quieted the crowed with a fadeaway jumper to pull the lead back to 5. It looked like Cal was able to answer every Huskies run and the Huskies would miss a few close shots a long the way.
Down by 6 with under 5 minutes to go, freshman Koren Johnson would hit a huge transition three-pointer off a great dish from fellow Freshman Keyon Menifield to get UW with 3 again.
The Huskies would lean on their Senior PG, Noah Williams to lead the charge down the stretch as Williams hit a tough runner to draw a foul to get the Huskies back within 3 with 3:56 left in regulation . After a pair of exchanges of baskets between Cal and Washington, the Huskies would have a chance to pull within 2 and again went to Noah Williams for the clutch bucket. It would be up to the Huskies defense late to make a few stops and UW was able to force a shot clock violation with 30 seconds left down 2.
Down 2 with 47 seconds left, the Huskies almost turned it over with an entry pass from Noah Williams to Braxton Meah but Koren Johnson was able to save it. However, the Huskies would end up turning it over as Williams could not handle a pass from Keyon Menifield in the corner near the Huskies bench for a costly turnover.
Washington would foul Kuany Kuany to set up a 1 and 1 free throw situation. Mike Hopkins would use the Huskies final Timeout with 27 seconds left to try and ice Kuany and ultimately worked out as he missed the front end. It also looked like Noah Williams gave Kuany a few words to think about as he walked to the bench before shooting and may or may not have affected the short miss from Kuany.
With 12 seconds left, Keion Brooks drove hard to the basket and scored a tough runner to tie it up at 63. California would not call a timeout and missed a contested 3 at the buzzer, sending the game to Overtime.
On the Huskies first possession in Overtime, Noah Williams went back to work and scored easily in the lane to give the Huskies their first lead since early in the 1st half. After exchanging some free throws from California Guard Joel Brown and Huskies Center Braxton Meah, Freshman guard Koren Johnson hits another big 3 at the top of the Key to give UW their biggest lead at 71 to 67 with 1:49 left.
It looked like the Huskies would pull away for a comfortable overtime win but that quickly disappeared a few seconds later when Kuany Kuany pulled up for his own three-pointer with 1:31 left to shorten the UW lead to 71 to 70.
Both teams would exchange baskets in the final minute and Cal would not go away. Joel Brown scored on consecutive layups that were challenged by Meah at the rim but was able to get them to fall. However, the Huskies were able to hold off the Cal Bears with timely baskets by Noah Williams and Keion Brooks plus 5 free throws from Koren and Brooks to ice the game.
Cal did have one last chance with 4 seconds left and appeared as if UW was going to foul up 3 but decided to let it play out. The Huskies may have caught a break as Koren Johnson contested a Sam Alajiki three-pointer which could have been called a foul but was credited with a block instead. With already two 4-point plays in the game for California earlier, the game could have ended in disaster but the Huskies were able to hold onto a 81-78 victory.
The Huskies were led by Keion Brooks with 26 points, including the game tying basket at the end of regulation but it was Noah Williams who probably earns the Player of the Game award with his best game as a Husky. Williams scored a season-high 22 points on 10/15 shooting and added in 4 boards and 3 assists. However, the Huskies probably aren’t in position to win the game without Williams’ 17 points in the 2nd half and OT. Brooks also chipped in his 3rd consecutive double double with 10 boards and a block on the defensive end.
Koren Johnson had some up and down plays during the game but finished with 15 points (3/4 from 3), after scoring 15 points against Stanford as well. Johnson also chipped in 2 blocks and 3 steals with zero turnovers. Braxton Meah had a relatively quiet game with Zero Dunks but finished with 6 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks to help protect the paint.
The Huskies move to 11-8 and 3-5 in Pac 12 play. Next up for the Huskies is a Mountain trip versus Colorado and Utah for two opportunities to get back into the Pac 12 race.