Lately, there’s been a conversation about Washington needing energy. The Huskies showed Saturday exactly what that energy looks like.
Some of it was far from glamorous. Like when Noah Dickerson took a charge. But when freshman guard Nahziah Carter came off the wing and threw down a one-handed dunk, it woke up a sleepy Haas Pavilion and sent the Huskies on a 16-2 run. That, in turn, powered UW to a 68-51 win over the California Golden Bears. UW (19-10, 9-7 Pac-12) is a victory away from its first 20-win campaign since the 2011-12 season.
“You know what? It’s hard to win. Cal gave us everything they had,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. “They were physical. They were aggressive. They made shots in the first half and tied it up. The second half — it wasn’t pretty — but we found ways. I thought we were really aggressive on the defensive end in the second half.”
Cal (8-21, 2-14) shot 44.4 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line to start. In the second half, the Bears shot 23.1 percent on the floor and went 0-for-9 from distance.
That’s only part of the story. UW kept Cal to eight points over the game’s final 13 minutes and 22 seconds. In total, the Bears missed their last eight shots. Their last field goal came when freshman forward Justice Sueing scored with 7:35 left. Cal’s last points came from junior guard Don Coleman hitting two free throws with 3:11 remaining in the game.
Freshman guard Darius McNeill, who is 6 feet 3 inches, scored a team-high 17 points. The significance? Coming in, the Huskies played 15 conference games. Thirteen of those contests saw a player taller than 6-7 lead their respective team in points. Sueing is one of six players on Cal’s roster who is 6-7 or taller. He was the only one to even break double figures and he had 12 points.
“Those spurts,” Huskies freshman guard Jaylen Nowell said of his team’s defense. “That’s when we were dialed in and focused on stopping them.”
Nowell scored a game-high 23 points. He went 4-for-10 from the field but was 2-for-3 from 3 and hit 13 out of 14 free throws.
Cal held a 43-39 lead with less than 17 minutes left when UW went on its 16-2 run. Nowell hit consecutive free throws and guard David Crisp scored on a layup.
Crisp, a Tacoma native, broke the career 1,000-point mark on that bucket. He finished with six points.
Nowell came back with another jumper then Carter’s dunk made it clear UW wasn’t going to let up. He took the ball near half court and came off the wing for a one-handed slam over Cal senior forward Cole Welle.
Carter, who also had six points, cocked back his right arm before elevating over Welle for the dunk.
“I was like, ‘No! Reverse it! Reverse it!’ then ‘Bam!’ Hopkins said of Carter’s dunk. “Then I was like, ‘Great play!’ Those types of play are energy plays. That’s what you want. It’s a dunk. It’s a block. It’s a steal.”
Hopkins was also asked for his thoughts on the controversy surrounding Sean Miller.
A FBI wiretap picked up an alleged conversation the Arizona coach had about paying $100,000 make sure the Wildcats would get freshman star forward Deandre Ayton, according to a ESPN report late Friday evening.
Several media outlets reported Miller was not at the team’s Saturday shootaround in Eugene, Oregon, and former UW coach Lorenzo Romar would coach the team against Oregon. Romar, who was fired after 15 seasons with the Huskies, was hired by Miller in April as an assistant.
“It’s unfortunate. You see these stories. There’s so much,” Hopkins said. “I had to finally turn my phone off.”
College basketball has come under further scrutiny in the wake of the FBI’s investigation.
Yahoo Sports reported early Friday morning more than 25 current and former collegiate players from across the nation received money from ASM Sports.
Former Huskies star point guard Markelle Fultz allegedly received a $10,000 loan from ASM years before turning professional.
UW released a statement saying it was “committed to full compliance” with the NCAA and any additional investigations that may result from the allegations.
“I don’t wish that on anybody,” Hopkins said of Miller, a three-time Pac 12 Coach of the Year winner. “I hope the stories aren’t true for the coaches but, it is what it is.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark