Smooth-moving guard Malachi Flynn says he’s learned much of what he knows about basketball watching his older brother, Isaiah.
One trick he’s picked up and nearly mastered is the hesitation dribble.
Three times in the final two minutes, Flynn used that move to perfection, scoring big baskets in leading Washington State University to a come-from-behind 79-74 victory Sunday over Washington at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
In fact, Flynn tallied half of his 16 points in the final 2:13 to ruin the Huskies’ Pac-12 home opener — and a stellar individual effort by freshman counterpart Markelle Fultz.
Fultz nearly produced the first triple double — 26 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds — in UW men’s history.
“First off, Fultz is a great player,” said Flynn, the reigning News Tribune All-Area player of the year from Bellarmine Prep. “But coming back (down the floor), I tried to be aggressive. We set a pick and roll, and I got to the hole and made a layup.”
At one point, WSU trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half — 33-20 with 5:45 remaining.
But the Cougars kept chipping away at the deficit by going inside to Josh Hawkinson, who led the Cougars with 26 points, and Conor Clifford, who added 14.
WSU finished with 44 points in the pain, to the Huskies’ 30.
“I thought tonight we settled, and shot too many (3-pointers),” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Fultz was about the only thing the Huskies had going on offense in the second half, and Romar went to him time and time again.
And with five minutes remaining, all Fultz needed was one more rebound to post a triple double — something he said he had no idea was in the making.
“I don’t even look at the stats ever,” Fultz said. “I am just playing basketball and trying to get the (win).”
Fultz’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Hawkinson gave the UW a 71-67 lead with 2:25 to go, and sent a near-sellout crowd into a cheering craze.
But 12 seconds later, Flynn answered it by squeezing past fellow Tacoma product David Crisp down the right side of the lane for an inside bucket.
“(It) was a good screen. It hit David a little bit,” Flynn said. “I slowed up a little bit, and burst (by him). It gave me enough space to go through that.”
It was hard to criticize Fultz, but his turnover led to Hawkinson’s game-tying basket at the 1:34 mark.
And the next time down, Fultz charged into the lane, switched the ball to his left hand, but his 10-foot shot went too hard off the rim.
Flynn motored past Crisp again off the same move to give the Cougars the lead for good, 73-71, with 48.6 seconds remaining.
“We are supposed to send Malachi the other way,” Romar said. “The help (defense) was in the other direction, and we were not able to get there.”
Needing to make something happen, Fultz challenged the WSU interior again by going into the lane. Again, it was rushed and a little flat, and clanked off the rim.
““Boy, (Fultz) made a lot of plays down the stretch. When he’s going that well, you figure you continue to go to him,” Romar said. “He got into the lane, but he just couldn’t convert (shots).”
Flynn’s last bucket came around 6-foot-8 sophomore Noah Dickerson – one that proved to be the most important of all. It helped seal up the Cougars’ first conference-opening victory in nine years.
“I did not want to shoot over a taller defender, so I tried to get by him with a little hesitation move,” Flynn said.
After the game, Dickerson — who poured in 19 points — said a disturbing trend has continued with his team.
“One thing we’ve been saying since last year, we are a one-half team,” Dickerson said. “One half, we bring it, The other half, we struggle. Same thing today. You cannot play basketball like that.”
Game in review
PLAYER OF THE GAME: He might not have flirted with a triple double like fellow true freshman Markelle Fultz did, but WSU guard Malachi Flynn, the former Bellarmine Prep standout, tallied half of his 16 points in the final 2:13 to lead the Cougars to their first Pac 12-opening win in nine years.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Flynn said he learned his patented “hesitation move” from his older brother Isaiah on the playground. He used it to perfection to slide by UW’s David Crisp on two layins, and Noah Dickerson on a third key late bucket with 13.9 seconds to go to give WSU a 75-71 lead.
STAT OF THE GAME: Fultz is as good as advertised, and nearly opened conference play by giving the Huskies their first triple double in men’s basketball history — 26 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
QUOTABLE: “Boy, (Fultz) made a lot of plays down the stretch. He’s going that well, you figure you continue to go to him down the stretch. He got into the lane, but he just couldn’t convert (shots).” — UW coach Lorenzo Romar
WHAT IT MEANS: This might be a loss critics of Romar talk about for a while, especially with preseason Pac-12 favorite Oregon coming to town in a few days. The Huskies had won seven of their past eight home conference openers, but took too many quick jumpers and made too many ill-advised turnovers in the second half to hold off an underdog WSU team Sunday night.
UP NEXT: Oregon at Washington, 6 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN2