The Huskies badly needed a feel good win after losing 3 out of 4 and giving up 98 points on Wednesday night against Colorado. They got it and then some as Washington got out to an early lead and never relinquished it in part thanks to a 20-1 run that spanned halftime. Four Dawgs finished with at least 12 points led by Keion Brooks Jr.’s 27 and UW rolled to a 98-73 victory over the Utes to go to 12-9 (4-6) on the season.
Washington got off to an impressive start on the offensive end in this one. Keion Brooks Jr. stepped into a 3-pointer to start off the scoring and Wood also knocked down his first long-range attempt shortly after. After a Wheeler layup, Brooks followed with a thunderous dunk plus a long 2 to put Washington up 12-5 at the first media timeout.
Branden Carlson had 34 points against the Huskies in the first game against Utah and Mike Hopkins clearly didn’t want it to happen again. Washington double teamed Carlson every time he touched it although even that couldn’t completely contain him. He got free following an offensive rebound and knocked down a corner 3 for Utah’s second bucket.
The Huskies just destroyed the Utes over and over in the pick and roll though. Sahvir Wheeler repeatedly burned Utah’s guards and coasted for easy layups. When they tried to contain that, he threw it up for Braxton Meah for lob dunk after lob dunk. Meah had 4 in the first half but after the last one he tripped over Moses Wood’s foot and appeared to injure his ankle, leaving the game and never returning. He eventually made his way back to the bench in a walking boot.
With 6:31 left in the first half, a Wheeler layup extended the Husky lead out to 15 points at 35-20. Utah finally started to make some shots at that point and a 10-2 run culminating with a Keiba Keita putback and-1 brought the Utes back in it at 37-30. Washington held a similar 14-point lead in the first half of their first game against Utah and similarly frittered it away.
This time though, Washington responded through the break. The Huskies went on a 9-0 run to close out the half punctuated by a Paul Mulcahy layup following a nifty pass fake and then a 3-pointer on the next possession. Sahvir Wheeler couldn’t quite get a layup at the buzzer to fall and so UW settled with a 46-30 advantage at halftime. Keion Brooks Jr. led all scorers with 14 points and Wheeler and Mulcahy joined him in double figures.
The run didn’t stop after halftime. Utah split a pair of free throws but after that it was all Huskies once play resumed. Mulcahy had 3 layups with a variety of up and under moves in the first 2 and a half minutes. The last of them put Washington up 57-31 and prompted a Utah timeout. Going back to the first half it meant the Huskies went on a 20-1 run over a little more than 6 minutes of clock.
Branden Carlson got loose underneath for a pair of buckets to stop the bleeding and a Bajema layup cut the Husky lead back down to 20 points. But Moses Wood answered with a wide open 3-pointer in transition and Utah just never could get enough going on offense to seriously put a dent in the Washington lead.
Wilhelm Breidenbach, forced to play the entire 2nd half due to Meah’s injury, hit a 3-pointer with 6:51 left to put the Huskies up by over 30 points for the first time. Utah called a timeout trailing 83-52. Keion Brooks Jr. extended it to 34 a few minutes layer on back-to-back occasions with a high flying dunk and then an acrobatic layup. Both times he finished through contact to no call and then on the other end was called for a foul after getting elbowed in the face by Branden Carlson with 2:32 remaining. They reviewed to call it a flagrant on Carlson and Brooks made both free throw to go up 95-60.
Mike Hopkins decided it probably wasn’t worth risking an injury to Brooks or Breidenbach at this point and put in walk-on big Nehemie Kabeya. With the walk-on’s in, Utah hit back-to-back-to-back 3’s and UW turned it over on multiple possessions to blow the 30-point margin and fail to score 100 points much to the crowd’s dismay. A Husky 3-pointer that would’ve done the trick came after the buzzer for a shot clock violation with 6 seconds remaining.
It’s fair to say this was UW’s best effort of the season even when taking into account that Utah was out a pair of starters. The Huskies weren’t exactly in prime fighting shape themselves with Koren Johnson in a sling due to a shoulder injury sustained against Colorado and Meah’s ankle injury (Franck Kepnang and Wesley Yates remain out indefinitely).
The big difference in this game was the play of Mulcahy who too often hasn’t been a legitimate scoring threat since breaking a finger in December. He looked much more aggressive against Utah’s anemic wings such as Cole Bajema and made his first 6 shots on the way to 18 points. Sahvir Wheeler only had 12 points but finished with a double-double due to his 10 assists and Washington made open shots shooting 46% from 3 as a team.
Washington has a full week off before their next game at home against Washington State and they’ll need it to try to get Braxton Meah and Koren Johnson healthy. The Cougars haven’t lost a game in regulation in 3 weeks and are playing their way onto the NCAA tournament bubble.