Tyler Harvey led the Eagles with 21 points.
After being down by as many as 14 in the first half, the Huskies (8-0) chipped away at the Eagles' (8-2) lead, eventually taking the lead with 1:27 remaining - the first time Washington led since the 13:05 mark of the first half - on an Upshaw tip-in.
“We were a little rattled, but we got together, we talked to each other, and we put it together and won the game," Upshaw said. "They were making shots; they’re a good team. They’ve had a good start to their season but we had to settle down and go by what we’re doing in practice and executing. I think that’s what we did and that’s how we won this game.
"The team we have this year, we’re a bunch of fighters. We’re competitive guys. We fight. We fought back in a lot of games this year and we fought back in this one.”
It must have felt like deja vu for the Eagles, who were up by nine at half last year but eventually lost to the Huskies by a dozen. This year's game was a much tougher contest. Every time Washington made a run, Eastern had the answer in the form of a big jumper or play inside. When Upshaw started the game 0-6 from the line, the Eagles did their best to make sure there were contested shots whenever the ball went into the 7-footer.
“I talk to myself," Upshaw said about his free throw woes. "It’s kind of weird, but I try to keep poised. We spend a lot of time shooting free throws in-between breaks at practice and I spend a lot of time outside working on form. I wasn’t a good shooter at my previous school. I just need to keep working and putting in time in to make those shots so I don’t shoot 5-14.”
The key to Upshaw's night at the line came when he went 3-4 the final 3:11 of the game to keep the Eagles on the outside looking in once Washington took the lead.
“He was in at the end of the game tonight and he made most of his free throws down the stretch," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said of Upshaw. "Obviously he had a very bad start tonight, but almost every tight game we’ve had, Robert has been in the game. It hasn’t hurt us one time at the foul line. Against UTEP they were going to do the Hack-A-Shaq thing, and they were so busy trying to foul Robert that Nigel just kept driving to the basket because they were trying to foul. We’re okay with that. What he does on the other end cancels that out, protects the basket.”
The Huskies, who were scoreless from the foul line in the first half, were also 1-9 from three-point territory. Along with the improvement in the stripe the final 20 minutes came a much better shooting effort from deep. UW shot 4-7 post-intermission, with two of the biggest threes of the season coming from Williams-Goss and Johnson back-to-back, acting as a dagger to Eastern's hopes down the stretch.
“We’re all confident shooters," Williams-Goss said. "We all put the time in outside of practice and we shoot a lot during practice. So we have confidence that guys are going to make open shots. Whether they are missing or making, we’ve got guys that can knock down shots.
“Darin’s not a player that lacks confidence. Darin knows how talented he is. We know how talented he is. He’s going to stick with it and we expect he’s going to have some big games for us.”
Romar believes that Sunday's win will be one the Huskies can draw from once the team hits Pac-12 play January 2nd at California.
“(Eastern Washington) have a great belief that they are going to go out and win ball games, regardless of who they are playing or where," he said. "And that’s special to have those traits with a team. But through adversity, I thought we did a really good job. We pulled together and really gathered ourselves and had a great focus down the stretch in that game. We just whittled away at their lead through defense, and some guys hit some big shots. Robert Upshaw did a great job protecting the rim and then using his size to create problems on the offensive end.
“That’s a character win. UTEP, Long Beach State, this one - these are wins where when we play in our conference we’ll be able to draw from and be able to gain confidence from this.”
Eastern Washington-Washington Official Final Box Score
Post-Game Video Interviews:
Robert Upshaw and Nigel Williams-Goss