An Andrew Andrews offensive rebound and layin with 25 seconds left in the game gave Washington their first lead and they made it hold up, as the Huskies defeated USC 87-85 in a Sunday thriller at Alaska Airlines Arena. It was part of a run where the Huskies scored the final nine points to win.
“I called the play for Baby Boy (Dejounte Murray)," Andrews said of the final play that found him on the back side of the play. "He had 27 points. I know when somebody’s going to get them the ball. When I’m going I want the ball. He was going. He had to have the ball. He made the shot to bring us within one point. So I called the play figuring that if he’s going to miss I’m going to go in and try to get the rebound. Usually people don’t try to box out the point guard or whatever. I just tried to let him make a play and if it didn’t come up, go for the rebound.”
Elijah Stewart nearly put back an Katin Reinhardt miss as time expired, but his made bucket never counted, giving Washington the win.
It's the biggest deficit overcome since Washington found themselves down 16 in the first half against then No. 12 LSU during the 2006-07 season. The Huskies would eventually win that game 88-72. Romar even admitted that he had never coached back-to-back games at Washington quite like the last two, which including a double-overtime win over No. 25 UCLA Friday night.
"It hadn’t been where you’re down like we were down against UCLA, comeback, double overtime," he said. "Then you’re down 21 in the second half with not a whole lot of time left and you come back. I’ve never been a part of that before.”
There was also no USC fans yelling 'Gary Coleman' at freshman guard David Crisp, as the Beaver fans did to Nate Robinson 12 years ago, and Washington's comeback at Gill Coliseum was a lot more measured than the ferocious fight back displayed by Washington Sunday - but could this game be seen in years to come as this group's 'Oregon State' moment?
Dejounte Murray scored 20 of his career-high 29 points in the second half, while Andrews finished with 24 for the Huskies (10-4, 2-0). Freshman forward Marquese Chriss got his third career double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Crisp added 13 points.
USC (12-3, 1-1) had five players in double figures, led by the 15 apiece from Bennie Boatwright, Julian Jacobs, and Jordan McLaughlin. Nikola Jovanovic scored 14, and Stewart 10 for the Trojans.
Whether it was the quick 36-hour break between this game and Washington's double-overtime win over UCLA or not, the Huskies came out a bit sluggish - shooting only 25 percent from the field, including 2-9 from layin distance. The Trojans, who defeated Washington State by 13 Friday in Pullman, were the opposite, shooting and playing with confidence and focus. They took a 13-point lead after two McLaughlin foul shots with 4:54 to intermission.
But they really piled the pressure on the young pups with a 20-8 run, punctuated by a Reinhardt jumper with 14:18 left, to start out the second half.
Romar, as animated as he's ever been during a game, was literally jumping up and down on the sidelines, egging his young charges on to play with emotion and energy.
"I was trying to get us going because we were flat," he said. "Sometimes when you’re flat you don’t realize you are until you watch yourself. If you every watch yourself on film, right away you go ‘wow, I wasn’t very fast at all.’
"I don’t know if it was the emotion from the double overtime game the other night, but we were just flat. We were a step slow defensively. USC is good, and they will exploit you if you’re a step slow. But we were a step slow on the defensive end. Offensively, the shots, they didn’t look like they were going in. It wasn’t like we were shooting air balls, but it wasn’t that good touch. Thank goodness in the second half we were able to go with a smaller group that played with a lot of energy that generated some offense for us and got us going."
By that time, Jacobs - who was 7-9 from the field up to that point - had been subbed out due to an apparent ankle turn and he was never able to return to the game. That was a turning point; without one of their top ball handlers available, the Huskies applied even more pressure.
"That was probably the defining moment for their team because that slowed them down," said Andrews. "We like to trap and take it out of their primary ball handler’s hands, but when they have both of them in the game you can’t really trap them and get them to speed up because one of them is always going to come back to the ball. So when he went down we were able to kind of corral (Jordan) McLaughlin and get someone else to bring it up and not get in their offense. That’s how we turned up the tempo of the game when they kind of went to slow it down.”
Murray stepped up on the offensive end, scoring seven of nine-straight UW points, forcing a USC time out with 11:05 remaining in the game. A Matisse Thybulle three followed, and though it took Washington until the 8-minute mark to get within single digits for the first time since 6:48 in the first half, the momentum was all on their side.
Five-straight more by Murray cut the Trojans' lead to three with 7:02 to go, and from there it was a battle royale.
"The way we were playing, pressing, and trapping those turnovers it was up and down," Romar said. "That right there is bliss for (Murray). It was just going out there hooping. There aren’t too many better at it than him.”
A Jovanovic layin gave USC a 7-point advantage with 2:12 left, but that was the last time they would score. Washington scored the final nine points in a heroic effort to pull out the win.
"We just stayed together, stayed positive, tried to get our energy going again, and take every possession like it’s our last starting on defense," said Murray. "And that’s what we did and we got the win.”
"(USC) is good," added Romar. In my opinion they’re the most difficult team to guard that we’ve played up to this point. They just have someone at every position that can make a basket. I feel bad for Julian Jacobs. I think he’s one of the more underrated guards in America. We watched him on film and watched what he was doing. He controls their team, runs their team, and it was a big blow for them for him to have to go out. Our guys stepped up and we tried to take advantage of it as best we could and I thought we did a good job with that. I’m just so proud of our team. So proud of these guys to show the character, courage, and resiliency that they showed today.”