Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com

Huskies halt losing skid, defeat WMU 92-86

Led by the near triple-double of freshman Markelle Fultz, the Washington Huskies broke their four-game losing skid with a 92-86 win over Western Michigan Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena.

A Dominic Green three-point shot with 3:04 to play gave Washington a four-point lead and some breathing room after the two teams traded blows the previous five minutes. The sophomore then came up with a block on the defensive end, leading to two Fultz free throws. 

Up five with 1:07 remaining in the game, Washington’s Malik Dime had a chance to put things on ice for the Hoop Dawgs, but his point-blank slam dunk hit the back iron and went at least 20 feet high in the air. Fultz skied for the rebound, initially looked for a quick score, and when he couldn’t find it cycled the ball back outside. He then got the ball back and drove the right hand side of the lane and put in a leaner to make it 91-86 with 20 seconds to go, effectively killing the game. 

“I felt like I was just making a lot of plays,” Fultz said, adding he was unaware of just how close he came to a triple-double. “My shot wasn’t falling at first, so I was just playing the game - doing what I had to do to help my team win.”

Dominic Green added 16, David Crisp 15, and Noah Dickson 12 for Washington (5-5).

Fultz’s day of 27 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds was nearly disrupted by the return of Seattle native Tucker Haymond, who went absolutely bezerk on the Huskies early - scoring 20 first half points en route to a career high 28. 

Thomas Wilder chipped with with 14, and Brandon Johnson scored 13, Bryce Moore 11, and Seth Dugan 10 for the Broncos (3-7).

Haymond, the Garfield alum hit three quick three-point shots, something a bit different considering he had made a total of three three-pointers all season long up to that point. He finished with seven made bombs. 

“Got to tip my hat to Tucker (Haymond),” Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said of his performance. “Tucker’s been in our camps and been around since he was probably 7-8 years old, so we knew him very, very well. When a guy comes home like that it’s almost like a rival game. You don’t know what could happen. I think he was 3-18 from the 3-point line coming into this game, 17 percent. He got a couple open looks early and there he went. He scores 20 in the first half, kept them in the game for sure. Great job by him.”

What hurt the Huskies the most was another end-of-half meltdown, which stood in stark contrast to the way they stood up and were counted on when the game was on the line. They had two leads of at least eight points the final eight minutes of the first half melt away to the point where they were up only one at halftime, 49-48. 

“Against Nevada I think they scored 15 in the last four minutes,” Romar said. “Again, that’s something we, as a team, have to get better at. We had a lead against Nevada and went into halftime down. Here we had a comfortable lead and went in up one. We have to do better at finishing. Prior to that, I think it was a longer stretch where we were able to do what we were supposed to do. We just have to keep adding to that until we finally get to where it’s complete and that’s just how we play.”

Romar acknowledged that the Huskies continue to play with fire - scoring a lot of points, but giving up way too many as well. 

“Our goals, because of the number of possessions that we have - I think we’re sixth in the country in possessions - we’re comfortable giving up 72 points,” he said. “It’s more, we want to hold teams under 41 percent. But we’re not doing either right now. Again, we had stretches where we did a fine job, but it wasn’t consistent enough. We just have to keep getting better at that.”

One move that has yielded some success on the defensive end has been their move to more zone. When the Huskies extended and picked up more on Haymond in the second half, they held him mostly in check. But even then there was a stretch where WMU’s Bryce Moore hit back-to-back threes while UW was in the midst of trying to sort out their zone rotation. 

“A couple times we were in the zone and we substituted and when we substituted two guys were kind of fighting for the same spot on the fly,” Romar said. “They hit two consecutive threes at that point. It’s hard to see that if you don’t know our scheme but it was just that quick. So there were a couple. As we have made some of these defensive adjustments there were some breakdowns, and when those breakdowns were there, Western capitalized on it. We told our team before the game, they aren’t going to hand us the game. We’re going to have to take it. And that’s a perfect example. When we had breakdowns, they took advantage of it.”

Once they did settle down it was up to Fultz to put the Huskies on his back, and he did - scoring 19 second-half points. 

“It was real big for us,” he said of getting the win and killing the four-game losing streak at the same time. “We never come into a game trying to lose and being that we just came off this losing spurt we had a long practice just waiting for this game to come. We’re happy that we got it but we still have stuff that we’ve got to work on just like before. 

“We’re past it now, getting ready for the next game, going to practice and getting mentally focused.”

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VIDEOS

Markelle Fultz and David Crisp

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Lorenzo Romar

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QUOTES 

Markelle Fultz

On getting the win, no matter the margin - “It was real big for us. We never come into a game trying to lose and being that we just came off this losing spurt we had a long practice just waiting for this game to come. We’re happy that we got it but we still have stuff that we’ve got to work on just like before. We’re past it now, getting ready for the next game, going to practice and getting mentally focused.”

How is the feeling different after this game compared to the last four? - “It feels the same. Win or lose you’re always just looking for the next game. You’re learning from it. Pretty much we learned stuff from this game we won, we learned a lot of stuff. That’s all we try to do is become better basketball players and a better team and better men. We came into this game and learned a lot of stuff.”

Did you know you were only two rebounds away from a triple-double? - “No, I didn’t. I felt like I was just making a lot of plays. My shot wasn’t falling at first, so I was just playing the game - doing what I had to do to help my team win.”

David Crisp

Does playing the zone or switching defenses make it tougher to close out on the hot hand, like what Tucker Haymond was doing in the first half? - “It’s not too tough. We’ve already practiced a lot of defenses early this year. We’ve been in man, we’ve used a different type of zone, like a flathead. Now we’re going into this 2-3. We’ve had a lot of reps at a lot of different things, so whenever we’ve got to switch we all know what we have to do. It’s not too hard.”

Is it hard to find and key on a guy that isn’t known for being a big three-point shooter? - “Once you realize he’s a dude that hit about three in a row on us then the sense of urgency really steps in. Now we’ve got to find him and get him to cool down and get back to what the game plan was. Once we tried to slow him down a little bit on the perimeter we started to come back a little bit and got the lead.”

Lorenzo Romar 

Opening Statement

“I thought we made more progress, and I’m not talking about the final score. I’m talking about the things that went in to getting that victory. Got to tip my hat to Tucker (Haymond). Tucker’s been in our camps and been around since he was probably 7-8 years old, so we knew him very, very well. When a guy comes home like that it’s almost like a rival game. You don’t know what could happen. I think he was 3-18 from the 3-point line coming into this game, 17 percent. He got a couple open looks early and there he went. He scores 20 in the first half, kept them in the game for sure. Great job by him. 

“That team is a much better team than their 3-7 record would indicate. We watched them play Villanova a complete game. Villanova ended up winning the game but they had cut it down to 4-6 points. We knew that they were a better team than their record indicated, and they showed that tonight.

“I thought we gave a collective effort as a team and made a lot of good things happen for our team tonight.”

On defense late in the game to help get the win - “Malik (Dime) did a great job protecting the basket. That really helped. We were kind of changing defenses down the stretch, trying to keep them off-balance and I think that helped. The way we guarded the ball screen down the stretch, we changed that a couple of times in the last few minutes to continue to give them different looks. We were comfortable doing it because that’s what we’ve been practicing. I talked to a couple weeks ago about making some defensive adjustments and I think they showed up tonight and helped us.”

At what point do you have to identify a shooter normally not known for hitting from deep? Is it when he hits three in a row? - “After his first three we did, we just didn’t do it very well. We didn’t execute very well. I think he had four or five at halftime? Couple times we went to help in the rotation and we rotated too far and he got a good look. We obviously did a much better job in the second half of defending him, but in that first half he just got loose on us.”

In general, when a typically average to below-average shooting team from distance all of a sudden gets red hot, how did you feel you defended those shots? - “A couple times we were in the zone and we substituted and when we substituted two guys were kind of fighting for the same spot on the fly. They hit two consecutive threes at that point. It’s hard to see that if you don’t know our scheme but it was just that quick. So there were a couple. As we have made some of these defensive adjustments there were some breakdowns, and when those breakdowns were there, Western capitalized on it. We told our team before the game, they aren’t going to hand us the game. We’re going to have to take it. And that’s a perfect example. When we had breakdowns, they took advantage of it.”

Do you think you can continue to have success giving up 86 points a game? - “No. We won’t. We do have to cut that down. Our goals, because of the number of possessions that we have - I think we’re sixth in the country in possessions - we’re comfortable giving up 72 points. It’s more, we want to hold teams under 41 percent. But we’re not doing either right now. Again, we had stretches where we did a fine job, but it wasn’t consistent enough. We just have to keep getting better at that.”

They scored 24 points in the last seven minutes of the first half. How disappointing was that? - “Against Nevada I think they scored 15 in the last four minutes. Again, that’s something we, as a team, have to get better at. We had a lead against Nevada and went into halftime down. Here we had a comfortable lead and went in up one. We have to do better at finishing. Prior to that, I think it was a longer stretch where we were able to do what we were supposed to do. Just have to keep adding to that until we finally get to where it’s complete and that’s just how we play.”

How would you describe your transition defense tonight? - “At times they threw over the top and it wasn’t as good. I’ve got to go back and look at the film to give you more of an accurate answer, but couple times guys tried to go get the ball after a rebound and we didn’t have it and they burned us on the other end. You can’t give that up.”

Were you aware in-game how close Markelle was getting to a triple-double? - “No, I wasn’t. I didn’t know. I know now he had eight rebounds. We certainly didn’t take him out to prevent him from doing it, but no. I knew his assists were piling up, but I think he had five rebounds for a long time.”

On using eight players tonight - getting closer to finding that rotation you want to use for league? - “Each game is different. The nucleus of seven or eight is probably what will happen every game. But some games it may be nine or ten. What I would call a rotation is not if someone plays five minutes. They are playing double-digit minutes. But we are definitely more comfortable, regardless of who starts, who is in there. Dominic (Green) came in and did a really good job for us. He hit a big three, he played right, he helped us. And Carlos Johnson did a good job. Our perimeter is doing a good job that way.”

On what makes Fultz so good down the stretches of games - “He’s always had a flair for that. When the game is on the line, he has that ability to find the way in. And something that might not get mentioned - when they were going in for a layup and Markelle came out of nowhere and got a block…that’s a big play. When I say he’s a playmaker, that doesn’t mean he’s just getting assists. That’s a play he just made, a major play. When it’s on the line he may make the assist, he may make the shot, he may hit a big three or get a blocked shot like he did.”

Malik looked more aggressive tonight on both ends - “There were a number of people who stepped up and played well. If any one of them would not have, maybe the outcome would have been different. As I said earlier, Malik was one of those guys. He scored. Some sets that we ran we were able to get him open around the rim, but the job that he did protecting the basket the last few minutes of the game I thought helped us come out with the victory. So he played a very big part in our win tonight.”

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