Before Andrew Andrews toed the free-throw line and made the shots that gave his Washington Huskies a most improbable road victory over the UCLA Bruins, the UW senior guard went to school.
If you watched Washington’s thrilling-but-excruciating 86-84 win on Thursday night, you might remember plenty of highlights from the first half, before the Huskies blew an 19-point advantage, or several hand-wringing moments during the second, when the Bruins stormed back to take a late lead.
But the shot that stayed with Andrews — a seemingly mundane two-point jumper that missed well short — was what ultimately helped the Huskies leave Pauley Pavilion with just their eighth victory, ever, against the Bruins in Los Angeles.
Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, managed only 12 points on Thursday. He was in foul trouble and the Bruins “loaded up” on him whenever he came off ball screens. It wasn’t his night. On one occasion — and this wound up being pretty important — UCLA forward Tony Parker jumped at him before he even left the ground, Andrews shot the ball anyway, and the ball barely made it to the hoop.
So, with the score tied 84-84 and Andrews dribbling between the top of the arc and the midcourt line, the shot clock turned off, he took a screen from teammate Donaven Dorsey — the sophomore from Lacey made a big shot of his own earlier, a game-tying 3-pointer — and wound up with Parker on him inside the 3-point arc.
And here is where the earlier lesson came in handy.
“I knew this time,” Andrews said, “I’d be able to get him in the air and get him to the point where I could just jump straight up and get a foul.”
That’s exactly what he did. The officials called the foul with 3.4 seconds to play, and Andrews made the free throws that followed.
And when Isaac Hamilton’s last-second 3-point attempt for UCLA missed off the rim, the Huskies achieved victory in yet another game in which it appeared they would lose.
“You feel like you’re in business,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said, “if he’s going to the line that way.”
Such heroics were only required, of course, because the Huskies wilted in the second half after taking a 51-33 lead into intermission. UCLA cut that deficit to 12, to 10, to seven, to four, to two, a charge led by star guard Bryce Alford, who scored 28 points and gave the Bruins their first lead, at 82-79, on a 3-pointer with 2:05 to play.
Dorsey, a seldom-used sophomore, answered that basket with a confident stroke from the corner, a 3-pointer that tied the score with 1:20 to play. Andrews drove to the hoop on UW’s next possession and drew a foul, then made the free throws to give the Huskies the lead.
Alford drove right to the hoop to tie it with 29.1 seconds to play, giving UW the chance to take the final shot if it wanted.
But as the Huskies celebrate this victory, they do so knowing it shouldn’t have been this close. They looked in the first half as if they might run the Bruins out of this pristine building, shooting 51.4 percent while making 6 of 10 from 3-point range and holding UCLA (12-9, 3-5 Pac-12) to 11-of-28 shooting from the field.
The crowd booed as UW took a 30-13 lead with 7:14 left before halftime. In spite of their 13 first-half turnovers — and the fact that Andrews scored only four points and had three fouls in that time — the Huskies had a huge lead at the break and looked well on their way to a shockingly impressive win.
They made shots. They played defense. Noah Dickerson, who led UW with 15 points, operated efficiently inside. Dominic Green, who scored a career-best 10 points, continued to play important minutes off the bench.
Then they got outscored 51-35 in the second half. It’s not lost on the Huskies that poor defense after halftime has become a trend. So, too, is foul trouble, and that was a major problem yet again: Matisse Thybulle (11 first-half points), Malik Dime (10 rebounds) and Marquese Chriss (12 points) all fouled out.
“Their plan in the second half was to just go at us off the dribble, and they beat us a few times,” Romar said. “We continued to talk about (how) the majority of their guards like to go right, and yet they continued to go right on us. They just knocked off piece by piece of the lead, and there they were. We had a couple turnovers and didn’t make shots. Foul trouble. We got out of continuity a little bit. There it was.”
But, hey, there the Huskies are at 14-6 overall and 6-2 in Pac-12 play, still tied with Oregon for the lead in the conference standings heading into Saturday’s daunting challenge at USC.
They continue winning in spite of their youth — “age is just a number,” Dickerson remarked afterward, an ice pack wrapped around his aching left ankle — and are 5-0 this season in games decided by four points or fewer.
“I’d say it’s a special experience as a coaching staff to have a group that’s like this, that’s young,” Romar said. “They don’t know any better. In their mind, they just feel they’re supposed to win.”
“They’ve been in so many battles,” Andrews said. “Now their experiences are through the roof. They can almost do anything.”
Like blow an 18-point lead on the road and still win.
To be fair, though, they still needed Andrews for that.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – His team lost, but UCLA guard Bryce Alford was better than anyone else on the court. He scored 22 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, made a 3-pointer to give UCLA its first lead, and made a layup to tie the game with 29.1 seconds left. He shot 9 of 15 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Isaac Hamilton’s last-second 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
STAT OF THE GAME – The Huskies committed 13 turnovers in the first half but still led 51-33 at the break.
QUOTABLE – “I can give you an example: Kentucky. Young team, last year. Young team. Made it far. I guess it’s kind of a thing now in college, young teams doing what we’re doing. Like I said before, age is just a number. It’s just a number. We’ll be OK.” – UW forward Noah Dickerson on the Huskies winning so many close games despite being so young
WHAT IT MEANS – Quite a bit. The Huskies don’t win at Pauley Pavilion very often — they’re now 8-62 all-time against UCLA in Los Angeles — so any win here is a big one. But to do it the way they did, and to complete a season sweep of the Bruins in the process, shows again that this young UW team might be ahead of schedule. And the win kept them in a tie for first place in the Pac-12 standings.
UP NEXT – Washington at USC, noon Saturday, Pac-12 Networks