Huskies Bow Out of NIT with Loss to SDSU

Led by Winston Shepard's double-double - 18 points and 10 rebounds - the No. 2 seed San Diego Aztecs defeated No. 3 seed Washington 93-78 in the second round of the NIT Monday night in San Diego in front of a sold-out Viejas Arena. The Aztecs scored 25 points above their season average and 57 points better than the 36 they tallied last year in Seattle.

Trey Kell scored 16 points for SDSU (27-9), while Jeremy Hemsley added 13 and Matt Shrigley 12 for the Aztecs. 

Washington (19-15) were paced by the 20 points of Dejounte Murray. Marquese Chriss scored 19 and Andrew Andrews 17 in his final game as a Husky. 

Freshman forward Noah Dickerson did not make the trip, suspended for a violation of team rules. 

“It was difficult for our rotation because Noah could have scored in the paint on them," Washington Assistant Coach Raphael Chillious said post-game. "If you can get into the body of a shot blocker, they don’t block shots. Don’t know if the outcome would have been different, but the game would have been played differently.”

The Aztecs, who won the Mountain West regular season crown but lost to Fresno State in the MWC Championship game, came out energized. An and-1 by Dakarai Allen started things off, and then UW's Malik Dime picked up his second foul less than two minutes into the game. Devenir Duruisseau was called on for 30 minutes of action, 25 more than he had played in any Pac-12 Conference game. The freshman forward finished the game with seven points, eight rebounds and a block.

“Can’t say enough about Dev," Andrews said of Duruisseau. "He hasn’t played the entire year. He’s always worked hard in practice and today it showed that he can play and contribute.” 

With San Diego State up two with 13:15 to play in the half, Chriss committed his second foul. A minute later, Shrigley hit his first of four threes to push the Aztecs' lead to 7. His next one came with 10:47 to play until half. 

“Numbers-wise, they had the second-best defense in the country," Chillious said. "We came out and talked about it. When you have a young team they have to see it to believe it sometimes. Early in the game we were excited, great crowd, and I think our guys got caught up in the emotion of the game. 

“They aren’t a three-point shooting team, typically, but early we made mistakes on Shrigley. And with shooters like that, they make their first one they don’t think they are going to miss all night.”

The Huskies struggled to get the deficit back into single digits, but a Duruisseau jumper cut SDSU's lead to nine with 92 seconds to play. Shrigley buried a three at the end of the half to finish off a 7-0 run to give the Aztecs a 45-29 lead. 

“We came out a little bit flat; couldn’t buy a bucket," Andrews said of the first half. "It was a tough environment, but we battled through it. Just couldn’t get it done. The crowd was here when we were warming up. The team feeds off it. It was a great environment to play in.”

The second half didn't start out much better for the Dawgs. Down 16, the two teams kept trading buckets for minutes at a time until UW went on a 13-0 run, punctuated by a Chriss three-pointer with 7:43 left in the game. 

“We never stop playing," Andrews said. The senior from Portland hit two free throws with 12:05 left to overtake Jon Brockman as the Huskies' No. 3 all-time scorer behind Christian Welp and C.J. Wilcox. "Up, down, tie game, we’re going to make a run to win the game or get back in the game. I’m proud of the guys.”

SDSU immediately responded wth four-straight points, and the Huskies could never get any closer. 

“When we got it close, we got into a situation where we were scoring but we didn’t get stops," said Chillious. "We talked in the locker room - win, lose or draw we always compete. It epitomized what we’ve done all year.”

Now faced with an off-season where Washington hasn't made the NCAA Tournament for five years, the future appears bright. 

“It’ll stay in the back of my mind," Andrews said when asked about not making the Big Dance during his time as a Husky. "I’m just happy the way this team battled and I’m sure they’ll be in the tournament next year. Next year they’ll be there and I’ll be there in spirit.”

In the short-term, the futures of Murray and Chriss in purple and gold remain a question mark. Will they stay at UW for another year, or will the talented frosh leave early for life in the NBA?

“I think we have good people in our program, and I think the kids in our program have good people around them, well-intentioned," Chillious said when asked. "At the beginning of next season those players will be where they should be - hopefully.”

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