Huskies Escape With Victory

The University of Washington battled back from seven points down with just over six minutes remaining Thursday night to escape a huge upset by Division-II Western Washington University, winning 81-76 in front of an animated crowd of 3,471 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Washington outscored Western 14-7 in the final 3:00 of play to put the underdogs away, led by clutch free throw shooting - hitting 9-11 - and heady defense from freshman big man Jeff Day.

Down 55-62 at the 6:07 mark, the Huskies stayed composed and clawed their way back into the game. David Dixon knocked down two free throws and Doug Wrenn added a monster dunk to ignite the crowd and pull the home team to within three at 59-62. Western's senior guard Darnell Taylor momentarily stopped Washington's momentum with a layin, but two free throws by Josh Barnard and a laying by Curtis Allen drew the Huskies even closer at 63-64.

The visiting Vikings went back to their go-to-guy in Taylor, who got back to the line and drilled both free throw attempts. Barnard came back and drilled a pull-up 15-footer at the top of the key, and Day connected on a right-handed baby hook off the glass on the next time down the court to give the Huskies the lead at 67-66 with 3:17 remaining. But Taylor would answer again, this time with a three-pointer with a hand in his face to give WWU the lead back, the seventh lead change of the game.

Dixon answered with a three-point play on the next time down the court to make it a 70-69 Husky advantage, and Washington never looked back.

Day came up with the play of the game late with the Huskies holding on to a slim two point lead. Looking to makes something happen, Nehemiah Campbell drove the lane only to find Day planted in front of him with his hands straight up in the air. It drew an offensive foul, and ultimately was the difference in the game.

Grant Leep, who entered the game in the final minutes after Wrenn fouled out, scored four points on the ensuing possession to make it a six-point contest. The four points came when Leep hit the first of two free throws, then drilled an open three pointer after his second free throw bounced to directly to Day, who found the open shooter in the corner.

Western never again got closer than three.

"One thing I was really proud of was that we finally stood up and took a charge in a big possession," said Husky Head Coach Bob Bender of the play by Day that swung momentum in Washington's favor.

Five Huskies finished in double-digit scoring, led by the 17 points of Barnard, who was 4-7 from the field with two treys and 7-8 from the free throw line. Dixon had 15, Wrenn and Allen poured in 12 apiece, and Leep added 11.

"That is everything we wanted out of an exhibition game," Bender said. "It is so much better for a team to be in a game like this. Playing a team like Western who is coming off a season they had last year and with the veterans they had coming back was a really good situation for us to be in."

"I was really happy with how we responded, and we learned a lot about ourselves tonight. That is what you want out of exhibition and that is why I think we will take some steps from here."

Western was led by the 17 points from Taylor in his 23 minutes of play. Guard Shelton Diggs had 16 on 10-10 shooting from the free throw line, and Campbell chipped in 13 with four three pointers.

Junior center Michael Palm used his crafty low post moves to score 15 points, and also grabbed 12 rebounds for the Viking cause. The product of Rogers High School in Puyallup limited Dixon to only one rebound on the night.

Both teams struggled to do anything offensively early in the contest. The Huskies shot 15-33 from the field in the first half and were 0-3 from the charity stripe. Much like the first exhibition game, Wrenn couldn't find his stroke and missed on his first five shots of the contest. Without him, the Huskies turned to the inside presence of Leep and Dixon, who scored seven and six respectively from the line. Allen hit two three pointers to give him six before half as well.

As cold as the Huskies were, Western was worse. They couldn't connect on anything and were a frigid 8-34 before intermission. They managed to stay in the game with 11-14 free throw shooting and went to half down 33-30.

Palm led the way with eight first-half points.

"They have a lot of potential," said Palm of the Huskies after the game. "They have so many athletes and good players. I think in a couple years they'll be a real strong team."
Game Notes:

Dennis the Menace: Viking senior forward Brian Dennis played 22 minutes on the court, and spent the entire time talking trash to whoever wanted to hear. That's all that Dennis brought to the table, though. He finished with the goose egg on 0-2 shooting.

Next Up: The Huskies travel to Fairbanks, Alaska for the four-day Top of the World Classic tournament. They'll play three games up north, and return to Seattle on Nov. 24th for a 1 p.m. tip-off against Santa Clara.

Crowd Loud: The crowd was mixed evenly with Husky and Viking fans. The large WWU contingent sat on the eastern half of the arena and brought plenty of enthusiasm, making for an electric feeling in the building all game long. No matter which team scored, half of the arena was always cheering. Top Stories