University of Washington

Huskies hold off Montana, 66-63, to finish with best non-conference mark in three years

Mike Hopkins is taking a much-deserved Saturday off to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” with his family.

He is already feeling out of this world about his Washington Huskies one week out from Pac-12 play.

Yet again, the Huskies saw an opponent take them down to the wire.

And yet again, the UW found a way in the final minutes, holding off Montana, 66-63, on Friday night in front of 5,915 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The Huskies finish the non-conference slate at 10-3, their best mark since going 11-2 in 2014-15.

Jaylen Nowell led the team with 13 points. He shook off an ankle injury, and returned to hit the jumper that gave the Huskies the lead for good, 63-62, with 2:56 to go.

But it was their defense that finished the deal, holding the Grizzlies without a field goal the final 4:11.

“That is the story of our team – finding ways to win,” UW point guard David Crisp said. “Time after time, we’ve made big plays in the end to help us get a win.”

A little good fortune did not hurt, either.

After Crisp ‘s free throw gave the UW a 64-62 lead with 11.2 seconds remaining, Montana’s Michael Oguine raced down near the left 3-point arc, and got his feet tangled with the Huskies guard.

Crisp was called for a foul, and the Grizzles had a chance to tie.

Oguine made the first free throw, but his second attempt clanked off the front rim.

After being fouled on the rebound, Matisse Thybulle made both free throws for a 66-63 UW lead.

The Grizzlies tried a long pass to Oguine near the 3-point in the final seconds, but Crisp outjumped him to swat the ball away.

“Obviously we still have a long ways to go, but before January, we’ve won some close games,” Hopkins said. “We were lucky tonight that we did not let one bite us, but I’ve got to give to our guys a lot of credit, they made the plays they had to.”

Ahmaad Rorie, the former Clover Park and Lincoln standout, led all scorers with 19 points on 9-for-23 shooting for Montana. Bobby Moorehead, from Stadium High, chipped in with 14, including four 3-pointers.

“We fought, and that is the only thing you can ask for in this type of game,” Rorie said. “It was hostile, and a lot of guys had never really played in this kind of environment. We’ve just got to clean up some little things to get better.”

Now, the Huskies will be off for a week before heading to Los Angeles to open conference play at USC.

Hopkins said he thinks his team is as prepared for it as anybody in the Pac 12.

“We played a very tough schedule,” Hopkins said. “And we played every (style). I don’t think there is anything that we are going to see that we haven’t seen, and we have adapted well.”