In Washington’s last game they trailed by as many as 16 points against an in-state mid-major and needed to stage a furious comeback to prevail in 2OT. They didn’t let things get quite as bad this time around but UW trailed at halftime and needed to make their free throws down the stretch to finally pull away from Eastern Washington for a 73-66 victory. Keion Brooks Jr. led the way with 20 points as the Huskies finished off their non-conference slate with an 8-3 record.
Washington got out to a hot start on the offensive end with a Wheeler layup and a Wood 3-pointer on their first 2 shot attempts resulting in a 5-0 lead. Eastern didn’t let things get out of hand. They answered to a 12-6 deficit with a quick 5-0 run to close it back to within a single point after 7 minutes of play.
The Huskies made the run that everyone had been expecting. Eastern’s zone defense left wide open Washington players on the perimeter and they knocked down open 3-pointers. Washington started 3 of 4 from deep and a Koren Johnson midrange jumper opened up a 22-13 Husky advantage with 9:38 left in the 1st half.
That’s about when UW decided they were just comfortable never scoring again. After a single free throw by each squad, Eastern Washington went on a 14-0 run over the next 4 minutes as they got to the basket seemingly at will. Koren Johnson finally broke the run hitting a 3-pointer but Eastern kept up a 5-point lead for most of the remainder of the first half.
Washington finally got a few stops and Wilhelm Breidenbach hit an open 3-pointer then Moses Wood hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to narrow the halftime deficit for UW to 40-39.
Wood also hit a basket to start off the 2nd half and give the Dawgs their first lead since Eastern’s big run. Keion Brooks Jr. picked up his 3rd foul quickly though and Mike Hopkins left him on the bench for 7 minutes trying to keep him available down the stretch run.
It looked for a moment like UW might also be without Sahvir Wheeler. A lazy inbounds pass was stolen by Eastern’s Casey Jones but his momentum caused him to land on Wheeler who was down for several moments. The foul on Jones was his 4th and ruled a flagrant and sent him to the bench.
With Brooks back in the game the Huskies went on an 8-0 run to storm back and take a 6-point lead but they couldn’t extend it any further. Paul Mulcahy missed a pair of free throws and was called for an iffy foul going for a block on the other end. There were words between him and an Eastern player after Mulcahy complained about the call and the ref got aggressive with a double tech which gave Paul his 4th and 5th fouls, knocking him out of the game.
Shortly after the Huskies were fortunate to get bailed out of a missed 3 with Meah being hooked and held down low but Meah missed both the technical free throws. Sahvir Wheeler though found Keion Brooks Jr. open on the inbounds pass and he rose up for an and-1 dunk to put UW up again by 6 at 59-53.
Brooks had chances to extend Washington’s lead with consecutive possessions pulling up for an open free throw line jumper but both shots rimmed out. Eastern’s big man hit an open 3-pointer and an up and under layup by Ellis Magnuson gave the Eagles back the lead. Moses Wood then fell down after switching on to the EWU center and the resulting dunk completed a 9-0 Eagles run.
The Huskies got into the double bonus though and tried to chip away at the free throw line. Brooks was bumped receiving an entry pass and made both. Wheeler sprinted down court following an EWU miss and split a pair at the line to tie the game back up at 62 with just over 4 minutes left. It was a big shock that Wheeler made the play on the other end with a chase down block after Eastern broke the Husky press (it was before the ball had really been brought up to shoot).
Braxton Meah showed off the good and the bad of his game. On consecutive EWU possessions Meah was able to get the block but on offense in between he got called for an offensive foul resulting in a turnover. Eastern tried to go hack-a-Meah but did it by throwing consecutive forearms into a stationary off the ball Meah. The refs ruled it was a flagrant one for an intentional foul but Meah missed both free throws so failed to make them pay for the mistake.
With Washington leading 67-63 and 1:34 remaining it appeared Eastern would force a shot clock violation and get a needed stop. Wheeler recovered the ball after having it stripped and was off balance falling away from the hoop. He threw up a prayer that was nowhere close to a regular shooting motion a split second before the shot clock expired and it banked into the basket for 2 points.
Eastern Washington answered with a 3-pointer to stay in touch but Washington made their free throws and the Eagles missed a pair of deep shots to allow the Dawgs to escape with the win.
It’s reasonable to think that Washington got away with one tonight. Eastern Washington shot just 11/20 from the free throw line including a 2/7 performance from Sammamish native Casey Jones. Although the Huskies didn’t do much better at 19/29 from the charity stripe.
The absence of Franck Kepnang who should hopefully be available after a week-long break was definitely felt. Braxton Meah continues to look like a shell of the player he was last year. He finished the game with 0 shot attempts but was 0/4 from the free throw line and committed 5 turnovers. He had 7 rebounds and 3 blocks on the defensive end but that didn’t make up for being worse than just a zero on offense.
The former Kentucky duo of Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks Jr. played poor games relative to expectations. Brooks was just 5/12 from the floor with 4 rebounds while Wheeler was just 3/12 from the floor and committed 3 turnovers (plus probably should’ve had a few more that got credited to players not ready for his passes). It definitely seemed at times like he didn’t look 100% after the hard fall at the beginning of the 2nd half.
Washington ended up shooting 40% from deep but Moses Wood made the team’s only 3-pointer in the second half. It was Wood’s best offensive game yet for the Huskies going 3/4 from behind the arc and ending up with 17 points on 6 official shot attempts.
The Huskies are now off for 8 days before starting Pac-12 play with one of their tougher games going to Colorado to play a dangerous Buffs team.