PULLMAN – His coach calls him a “daredevil” and a “thrill-seeker,” the kind of guy whose parents probably scolded him for reckless horseplay as a youngster.
That, in essence, is why Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar wants junior guard Andrew Andrews to take important shots late in games. And why he wanted him to take the long 3-pointer that splashed through the net here with 2.7 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game against the Washington State Cougars, the high-arcing, game-winning jumper that secured an 87-84 UW victory.
“That’s how he is. He’s just a courageous guy,” Romar said. “He’s one of those guys that is a risk-taker.”
It was thrilling, for sure. But there seemed to be little risk involved, considering the way Andrews played in the 39 minutes and 57 seconds preceding his latest foray into basketball heroism.
This was the best game of Andrews’ college career, and he could have an outstanding senior season next year without ever besting what he did to the Cougars on Sunday. He scored 35 points on 11-for-18 shooting and made six 3-pointers, including the game-winner and another huge make with the shot-clock expiring that gave the Huskies a two-point lead with a little more than a minute to play.
So the Huskies (15-11, 4-10 in Pac-12) traveled home on Sunday night as winners for the first time since Jan. 22, when Andrews hit a step-back jumper in the final seconds to lift the Huskies to a 52-50 victory at Colorado.
They lost their next game, at Utah, and after Romar had to kick 7-foot center Robert Upshaw off the team for a rules violation, they lost six more. The seven-game losing streak was the longest of Romar’s 13-year career at UW, but it’s over now, and that’s all Andrews cared about afterward.
“I’m just glad we got the win, man,” Andrews said. “I was tired of losing.”
He played like it. Andrews scored 13 points in the first half, helping the Huskies scratch back from an 11-point deficit to trail only 41-37 at halftime.
They never did figure out how to defend the Cougars, who were led by DaVonte Lacy’s 23 points and shot 55.3 percent from the field and made 10 of their first 11 field-goal attempts in the second half. But the Huskies shot 50 percent themselves, also benefiting from a 20-point, 6-assist performance by point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who led an offense that finished with a season-low three turnovers.
“I think we played together as well as we’ve played in a while – 17 assists, three turnovers,” Romar said. “We took care of the basketball. We did a number of things that were necessary to get a win on the road.”
There were 11 ties and eight lead changes, including four in the final eight minutes. WSU appeared close to taking control after DaVonte Lacy made a pair of free throws to give the Cougars an 82-81 lead with 1:47 remaining, then the Huskies passed the ball around for 34 seconds before Andrews buried a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer to put UW back ahead.
WSU (11-15, 5-9) guard Que Johnson drove to the hoop and was fouled on the following possession, and made two free throws to tie the game with 36.7 seconds to play.
That left UW with a chance to take the final shot.
Williams-Goss walked the ball up the floor, then stood and dribbled in place, waiting for the shot-clock to tick down to about eight seconds before initiating the play that won the game.
He received a screen from 6-foot-10 forward Jernard Jarreau, who scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in his return from a knee injury. Williams-Goss began to drive against WSU’s zone defense, which caused guard Ike Iroegbu to sag off of Andrews, who became open on the right wing.
“We wanted to create a 2-on-1 situation on the weak side,” Romar said. “That’s why we set the screen, so that they’d have to pick Nigel up.”
It worked, and so Williams-Goss passed it to Andrews, and Iroegbu didn’t recover in time to prevent the attempt. Andrews let it go. Iroegbu crashed into him, desperate to affect the shot. But he was too late, and Andrews capped the best day of his career with what might very well be the most memorable shot he’ll ever make.
Although, the same could have been said a month ago in Boulder. The Huskies are just happy that’s no longer the site of their most recent victory.
“At this point,” Romar said, “you drop as many as we’ve dropped consecutively, to get it done the right way, it was huge. Big win.”
And a big shot. Again.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Andrew Andrews played by far the best game of his career, scoring 35 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field and 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range. He also chipped in four assists and had two steals in 38 minutes. Plus his final 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left won the game.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Andrews caught a pass from Nigel Williams-Goss on the right wing and launched a long 3-pointer that found only the net with 2.7 seconds to play. WSU could only launch a desperation heave at the buzzer that fell short and allowed the Huskies to snap their 7-game losing streak.
STAT OF THE GAME – Washington committed a season-low three turnovers and had 17 assists. And the Huskies didn’t turn the ball over in the second half.
QUOTABLE – “I was proud of our guys, the way we stuck together tonight. We hadn’t done that in some games. Tonight you could just tell, we regrouped. When we got down, we regrouped together the entire time.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar
WHAT IT MEANS – It’s a win, and those have been difficult for the Huskies to find. They snapped their seven-game losing streak, and now have something to feel good about for the first time in a month.
UP NEXT – Washington at UCLA, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25 (ESPN2)
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple