The 3-point shots were open, for the most part, so the Washington Huskies hoisted 13 of them in the first half of Tuesday’s game against Long Beach State.
They made none of them.
They shot another seven 3-pointers during the game’s final six-plus minutes.
They made all of them.
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If they hadn’t, we might be discussing yet another disappointing home loss to a mid-major opponent. Instead, the Huskies used career-best performances by Noah Dickerson and David Crisp to escape with a 94-88 victory before a crowd of 6,568 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
The Huskies improved to 3-1. Long Beach State fell to 1-5. This is still a dangerous 49ers team, one picked by media to win the Big West this season, and so it is not insignificant that UW prevailed despite shooting so miserably in the first half. And despite trailing by seven points with a little more than eight minutes to play.
It helped that the Huskies made seven 3-pointers in the game’s final six-plus minutes, a sequence sparked by the distribution abilities of star freshman guard Markelle Fultz, who started slowly but finished with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds.
“Markelle Fultz is not going to be Superman every night,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said, “but he’s probably going to be pretty good.”
Crisp, the sophomore guard from Tacoma, made four 3-pointers in the game’s final seven minutes, and led the Huskies with a career-best 26 points. He scored 17 in the second half.
Dickerson, a sophomore forward, scored 17 of his career-high 23 points in the first half to help the Huskies lead despite missing their first 13 3-point attempts.
“The easy baskets we got inside kind of kept us in there,” Dickerson said. “And in the second half, the shots started falling.”
LBSU made its first four 3-point attempts and led 16-6 after the game’s first 5 minutes and 20 seconds. Slowly, the Huskies prodded back, and eventually took the lead thanks to a 16-2 run just before halftime.
Romar credited his players for not abandoning their defensive principles when their shots weren’t falling in the first half.
“It’s something we talk about all the time,” Romar said. “The ball’s not going to go in the basket sometimes, and when that happens, you have to be able to guard. If not, you’re going to get blown out.”
Fultz was not immune to the Huskies’ shooting woes, at least early. He made only 3 of his 11 field-goal attempts in the first half and missed two 3-pointers (though he finished 9-of-18). But Dickerson was active and accurate, scrapping for offensive rebounds and attacking the rim against an undersized LBSU front line.
Dickerson made 7-of-8 from the free-throw line and all five of his field-goal attempts in the first half, including a baseline jumper that put UW ahead 36-28 with a little more than a minute left before intermission.
Dickerson said he’s been working on his mid-range game, and credited Fultz for creating easy opportunities from that distance.
“It’s very nice playing with someone like him that can get me so open I can just sit there and wait for the ball to come and slowly catch and shoot,” Dickerson said.
But the 49ers did not go away. They ripped off eight consecutive points early in the second half to take a 43-41 lead, and the Huskies didn’t lead again until David Crisp’s free throws put them ahead 54-53 with 10:16 to play. That was shortly after Dominic Green made UW’s first 3-pointer of the game, after 13 consecutive misses, with 11:20 remaining.
LBSU surged ahead after Evan Payne scored eight points in three possessions, including a pair of 3-pointers – the 49ers made 10-of-17 from the perimeter as a team – to give his team a 65-58 lead. The Huskies later tied it at 66-66 on a Dickerson bucket assisted by Fultz.
Then came the 9-0 run. Crisp hit a 3-pointer. Fultz started a fast break by pinning a Gabe Levin shot attempt against the glass, and Matisse Thybulle followed with his first 3-pointer. Then he hit another one on an assist from Fultz on UW’s next possession.
Crisp hit another 3 with 4:24 left. Fultz hit his first of the game with 3:49 left to give UW an 81-72 lead. Crisp hit yet another with 1:40 to play, giving the Huskies an 86-79 edge, and then hit another with 50.8 seconds left to put it out of reach.
After Crisp made his first, Fultz said, he wanted to keep looking for him.
“That’s what he does,” Fultz said. “He makes big shots at big times.”