UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Scott Suggs trotted out in his white warm-ups with his teammates just hours after being sure he would play Saturday.
Suggs had suffered a concussion in Washington’s staggering loss to Albany on Tuesday and hadn’t practiced since.
But, he went through practice Saturday morning dealing with contact. Since his head was clear, he was cleared. It was a critical gain for Washington on Saturday.
The Huskies (2-1) dominated the first half and overtime to beat Seton Hall, 84-73, in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Tournament in Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday night. The win sets up a hefty tangle with fourth-ranked Ohio State today.
Washington’s careening 45-minute journey for the chance to face the Buckeyes made Jekyll and Hyde turn to each other surprised at the Huskies’ massive shifts. Washington led 49-33 at the half, then gave it all back and trailed in the second half before surviving for overtime.
Suggs stepped in during the extra session. Relieved after Seton Hall missed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer, Washington won the tip in overtime and dominated. Suggs hit a 3-pointer to open overtime and another with 1:26 remaining to put Washington in front 82-73.
Suggs scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-for-4 accuracy from 3-point range, showing much of what Washington missed Tuesday after he was injured.
“He was huge,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He played like a senior does on the road.”
As did Abdul Gaddy in a Utopian first half.
Washington trailed 5-0 to start the game in a half-full and cool gym at the back end of this mega-casino. A 17-0 run and exquisite first half followed, mostly fueled by Gaddy’s 14 points and five assists. The Huskies also scored 19 points off 11 Seton Hall turnovers.
“I thought we played exceptional defense,” Romar said. “About as perfect a defensive effort as I’ve seen us play in a long time.”
The giddiness was muted midway through the second half. Washington shot 61.3 percent in the first half, then 33.3 percent in the second. Telling was the fact that the Huskies shot 13 fewer shots in the second half because their offense became so inefficient, just getting a shot up was a challenge.
Meanwhile, Seton Hall kept hitting 3-pointers. The Pirates were 7-for-9 in the first half from behind the 3-point line. That shooting was the lone aspect of the game they excelled at early. They were a solid 5-for-9 on 3s in the second half, but that ninth attempt was the crucial one.
Seton Hall (2-1) took a six-point lead on a 3-pointer from Kyle Smyth with 5:06 remaining. Washington scrapped back into the game and tied it 71-71 with 57 seconds to go after Aziz N’Diaye (14 points and nine rebounds) made the second of two free throws.
Desmond Simmons, who scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, was called for traveling when a cutter sprinted by, bumped into his pivot leg and knocked him off balance at the top of the key. That gave the Pirates the ball with eight seconds remaining.
Two options seemed viable: A drive by Fuquan Edwin, who scored a game-high 27 points, 18 of which came in the second half, or a 3-pointer. Seton Hall ended up with an open 3-pointer for Patrik Auda, a bench player who shoots 33 percent from behind the line, and it was well short.
The horn went off, Washington’s confidence went up and the Huskies controlled overtime.
“Proud how our guys battled,” Romar said.
Afterward, the Huskies headed down the hall to the team bus with a substantial shift on their hands just four days after a 63-62 home loss to Albany. They have a solid road win over a Big East team and face one of the powers of college basketball today.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta sat on press row, then left after Seton Hall called timeout down 17-5. His group – led by All-American candidate forward Deshaun Thomas and defensive maven Aaron Craft at point guard – beat Rhode Island, 69-58, prior to Washington’s game.
“We look forward to it,” Gaddy said. “It will be a good test for us to see where we’re at. We feel like we can play with anybody and beat anybody.”
They nearly blew the chance to do so.
WASHINGTON (2-1) VS. NO. 4 OHIO STATE (2-0)
1:30 p.m., Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 8-3.
Washington (Statistics through two games)
Jernard JarreauF220.127.116.11 37.575.0
Aziz N’DiayeC11.513.50.0 57.143.8
OHIO STATE (Statistics through one game)
Scouting report: Deshaun Thomas scored 25 points and snagged 10 rebounds Saturday in Ohio State’s 69-58 win over Rhode Island, which prompted Rams coach Dan Hurley (younger brother of ex-Duke star Bobby Hurley) to declare postgame that they did a “good job” against him. Thomas is a 6-foot-8 left-hander with range. He was 3-for-6 from behind the 3-point line Saturday. Point guard Aaron Craft is known as one of the best defenders in the country. His matchup with Abdul Gaddy will be an intriguing one.todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas email@example.com