BOULDER, Colo. – Before he made the most important shot of his basketball career, Andrew Andrews allowed himself to recall his biggest miss.
As a senior at Benson Tech in Portland, Andrews scored 41 points in the 5A Oregon state championship game against Corvallis High in Eugene. But he will remember most the jumper he missed at the end of regulation, and the heartache of the double-overtime loss that ensued.
Nearly four years later, atonement arrived here at the Coors Events Center, where Andrews lined up a jumper in the waning seconds of the Washington Huskies’ Thursday night game against Colorado.
“Once I got the ball,” Andrews said, “that was kind of just replaying in my head, thinking, ‘man, I missed the shot last time,’ so I’ve got to focus and make it.”
And so Washington left this intimidating venue with a 52-50 victory before a stunned crowd of 9,653, thanks to Andrews’ midrange jumper that funneled through the net with a mere three-tenths of a second remaining.
It was a dramatic finish to an ugly game marked mostly by misses.
But, hey. It’s a road victory. And the Huskies (13-4, 3-3 in Pac-12) will take those however they come.
“Any time you can get one on the road,” sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss said, “whether it’s pretty or ugly, you just want to get ‘em.”
Andrews himself shot just 3-for-12 from the field, finishing with 12 points thanks to a few trips to the free-throw line. And yet, UW coach Lorenzo Romar wanted Andrews to take the final shot when the Huskies gained possession with 34.1 seconds remaining, after Andrews forced a held ball with CU guard Jaron Hopkins.
“When he was a freshman, in practice, he’d hit those shots at the buzzer all the time,” Romar said. “If he gets open and he’s on balance, in a situation where there’s pressure, he’s a daredevil. And in those situations, I’ve seen him in practice come through.”
Andrews admitted that his eyes lit up during the timeout when he saw and heard Romar draw the play up for him.
Williams-Goss, who led all scorers with 16 points, dribbled patiently between the 3-point line and midcourt. Then, he tossed left to Andrews, who was defended by CU guard Askia Booker.
Williams-Goss sprinted to set a screen under the basket for Shawn Kemp Jr., who sprinted back to Andrews and set a screen on Booker. That prompted Kemp’s defender, 6-foot-9 forward Wesley Gordon, to switch onto Andrews.
He liked that matchup. So Andrews took a hard dribble with his left hand, pulled up a couple feet behind the free-throw line, and launched the jumper that gave the Huskies their first Pac-12 road victory of the season.
“He’s a gamer in certain situations like that,” Romar said.
It wasn’t easy. Washington, which relied on a six-man rotation for the first time this season, shot just 36 percent from the field. The Huskies hadn’t made a field goal since the 7:24 mark prior to Andrews’ game-winner, and they committed more turnovers (8) than made field goals (6) in the first half. Colorado led 24-19 at halftime, and it could have been worse.
But the Huskies’ zone defense was effective against the undermanned Buffaloes (9-9, 2-4), who played without forwards Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott. CU shot just 31.7 percent from the field, and didn’t score in the final 3:07 after Gordon’s put-back gave the Buffaloes a 50-48 lead.
Mike Anderson tied the score with a pair of free throws with 2:16 remaining.
Later, Andrews shot the Huskies back to .500 in Pac-12 play.
“We definitely have all the confidence in the world that he can knock down those shots,” Williams-Goss said, “and we’ve seen him do it before.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Andrew Andrews made the game-winner, but it was Nigel Williams-Goss who kept the Huskies in the game when they were having trouble scoring. He bulled his way to the rim for 7 field goals in 18 attempts, and led all scorers with 16 points. And he played 40 minutes.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Andrews’ jumper found the bottom of the net with three-tenths of a second remaining.
STAT OF THE GAME – Six, as in the number of players the Huskies used. They started Williams-Goss, Andrews, Anderson, Kemp and Robert Upshaw, and brought only Lacey native Donaven Dorsey off the bench.
QUOTABLE – “I get happy. I like big moments. I think Romar knows that I like being in the moment and making those type of plays, so right when he said it, my eyes kind of lit up.” – Andrews on taking the final shot
WHAT IT MEANS – With Colorado struggling this season and missing two of its best players, this game presented one of the most favorable opportunities the Huskies will have at a conference road victory. A loss would have been devastating, given how poorly they shot the ball, and how close the final score was. But the win extends UW’s winning streak to three games, and gives them some more life heading into a tough Sunday matchup at Utah.
UP NEXT – Washington at No. 12 Utah, 5:30 p.m. PT Sunday, Jan. 25 (ESPNU)
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple