David Crisp tied the score with a step-back 3-pointer in the corner over 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl and the largest crowd to witness a basketball game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion this season roared its approval, standing and yelling as Washington’s Sunday night game against Utah hurtled into overtime.
The Huskies have turned these kind of games — competitive, frantic, not so easy on the blood pressure — into something of a habit this season, particularly during Pac-12 play, in which four of UW’s five victories have been decided by four points or fewer.
If it’s close in the final minutes, this UW team — sometimes in spite of some mind-boggling mistakes — usually finds a way to win.
So maybe Sunday’s thriller constituted something of a reality check.
Utah missed only two shots in overtime and escaped Seattle with an 80-75 victory before a season-best crowd 8,073, rallying after Crisp’s 3-pointer tied the score with 16.5 seconds left in regulation.
It was only the second time UW has lost a game this season that was decided by five points or fewer, and the Huskies’ first loss in three overtime contests.
And despite the hectic finish — the Huskies turned the ball over with 22.6 seconds left, trailing 75-73, after a timeout — coach Lorenzo Romar identified the first few minutes of the second half as perhaps the game’s most crucial period.
After an ugly first half that yielded a 26-26 halftime score, the teams essentially matched baskets in the opening minutes of the second half. It was fun, fan-friendly basketball, and it made for fine theater. But Romar lamented a correlation between Utah’s newfound offensive rhythm and several defensive breakdowns by the Huskies.
“We were just going back and forth, and I thought that was a pivotal point in the game when we weren’t able to get stops,” Romar said. “If we were able to get stops like we were in the first half, maybe we go up six to eight, and that pace changes a little bit.”
The Huskies (13-6, 5-2 Pac-12) struggled to defend Poeltl, a likely top-10 NBA draft pick who scored 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He also made 13 of 16 from the free-throw line, because UW’s frontcourt players — Marquese Chriss, Noah Dickerson and Malik Dime — found it difficult to keep him from the rim without fouling.
Poeltl scored eight of Utah’s 14 points in overtime, including all six of his free-throw attempts, including the final two with 5.5 seconds to play that iced it for good.
The Huskies also allowed several wide-open 3-pointers that resulted from blown defensive coverages — Jordan Loveridge hit three shots from beyond the arc in the second half — and Utah ultimately shot 52.6 percent from the field in the second half and overtime.
Still, UW took a two-point lead with a little more than four minutes remaining on a steal by Matisse Thybulle and open-court dunk by Chriss, who scored 15 points before fouling out in the final minute of regulation. But the Huskies gave up 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to Loveridge and Brandon Taylor to fall behind by four points, and Utah took a five-point lead on a Poeltl bucket-and-foul with 1:29 to play.
Andrew Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer who finished with a team-high 17 points, made a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 66-63. That was still the score when Crisp found himself with the ball in the corner in front of UW’s bench, Poeltl in his face, before leaping behind the 3-point line and ripping his first bucket of the game.
“I just told myself, remember what you did at (Rainier) Beach,” said Crisp, a freshman from Tacoma. “Remember, you’re a shooter, you make shots. So I was like, if I come back in and have the opportunity, I’m going to make the next one for sure. It just happened to be that play to go to overtime.”
But the Huskies didn’t lead again. Utah scored the first two baskets of overtime before Crisp hit another 3-pointer to cut it to 70-69, and Dime tied the score at 73-73 on a putback dunk with 1:22 to go.
The Utes (15-5, 4-3) scored the next five points, though, all on free throws. In between, the Huskies had a chance to tie or take the lead after calling timeout with 37.7 seconds to play and 15 seconds on the shot clock, trailing 75-73.
They inbounded to Dickerson, who tried to dish off to Andrews, who was well-covered. He got the ball and tried to dribble, wound up losing his balance and Utah regained possession after the shot clock expired during a scrum for the ball.
Utah’s Kyle Kuzma split a pair of free throws thereafter, giving the Huskies a chance to tie the game, but Dejounte Murray missed an open 3-pointer and UW trailed by five points before it got the ball back.
“We don’t have moral victories,” said Andrews, who scored 15 points in the second half and overtime. “We made a couple mistakes down the stretch that we shouldn’t have made.”
The result was their first Pac-12 home loss in four tries this season.
“It was a golden opportunity,” Romar said. “It’s a home game. You just can’t give those away. Those are precious. But I look up, we’re still at the top of the league. I know we’re tied, but we’re still at the top of the league. Like I said, I really believe this team will continue to get better every week.”
Game in review
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Utah center Jakob Poeltl showed why some projections list him as a top-10 NBA draft pick. The sophomore from Austria scored a game-high 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and was 13 of 16 from the free-throw line, well above his season average of 67.8 percent. He also had 10 rebounds and coaxed UW’s big men into foul trouble.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Poeltl made a pair of free throws with 5.5 seconds remaining that gave Utah a five-point lead.
STAT OF THE GAME – The Utes were just 6 of 24 from 3-point range in the game, but hit 5 of 11 in the second half.
QUOTABLE – “I think what we talked to our team about is, these games are marathons. They’re not sprints. And every possession is crucial, and you go the first four or five minutes in that second half where we weren’t up and as active as we needed to be, and they took advantage of it.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar
WHAT IT MEANS – The Huskies lost a Pac-12 home game that they could have won. That’s never easy to swallow, especially with a tough road trip at UCLA and USC upcoming. Utah is a good team — a good team with veteran players — so the Utes are probably better suited to finish off a game like that in overtime. But if UW finds itself on the wrong side of the tournament bubble in March, this might be a game the Huskies particularly regret.
UP NEXT – Washington at UCLA, 7 p.m. Thursday, FOX Sports 1