On Saturday morning, the Washington Huskies weren’t sure whether senior guard Scott Suggs, ailing with a concussion, would be able to play in the third round of the Tip-Off Holiday Classic against Seton Hall in Uncasville, CT. But Suggs not only played, he shook off his fog and hit a key 3-pointer with 1:15 to play in overtime, lifting the Huskies to an 84-73 victory over the Big East Pirates.
Washington (2-1), which embarrassed itself in a 63-62 loss to Albany earlier this week at Alaska Airlines Arena, will play No. 4-ranked Ohio State Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in its final game of the Tip-Off Classic. The Buckeyes, a Final Four team last year, defeated Rhode Island 69-58 earlier Saturday.
Until Suggs, who finished with 15 points, hit his 3-pointer, which extended the Huskies’ lead to 82-73, it looked like Washington would wind up blowing an 18-point lead and losing. But Suggs’ shot instead helped Washington snap a six-game road losing streak to non-conference opponents that dated to a loss to North Carolina in the round of 32 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
It was a crazy game. Seton Hall jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Washington then scored the next 17 points to lead 17-5. With Abdul Gaddy scoring 14 first-half points, Washington had a 49-33 halftime lead and appeared to be coasting.
Wrong. Seton Hall went on a 33-9 run in the second half before Washington, which had just one field goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half and two in the first 16, suddenly countered with a 24-9 run.
“That kind of thing will make you dizzy,” said UW head coach Lorenzo Romar. “I thought in the first half we were outstanding, and most of that was due to our defense. It was probably the best defense we’ve played in two or three years. But in the second half, we couldn’t make any shots and they knuckled down.”
Washington had a 52-41 lead with 15:10 to play, but Seton Hall chipped away and took lead at 60-58 with 6:18 remaining, its first lead since 5-0. The Huskies forced overtime when Aziz N’Diaye tied the game with a free throw at 71 with 56.6 seconds left.
Suggs dropped a 3-ball to start the the overtime. Freshman Andrew Andrews hit a 3-pointer for a 77-71 lead with 3:36 to play. After Gaddy hit two free throws to give UW a 79-71 lead, his first points of the second half, Suggs buried a wide-open 3-pointer with 1:15 left to extend the UW lead to 82-73.
“Mentally, this does a lot for us,” said Romar. “You have to be able to pull out these kinds of games away from your own arena. Had we lost it would have made things a little more difficult, for sure. But we pulled it out and now we have an opportunity to play against the fourth-ranked team (Ohio State) in the country.”
Gaddy led the Huskies with 16 points and N’Diaye and nine rebounds. But the key player for Washington in the second half was Desmond Simmons, who scored a career-high 14 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.
“For Simmons to go out and get 12 rebounds in a game like this was very pivotal,” said Romar. “It was a very heroic performance by Desmond.”
“It was a fun game for us,” said Simmons. “It was one of those gritty games. We got after it and then they got after it, and it came down to the wire and we came up with it.”
The most curious aspect of the game was that C.J. Wilcox was largely a non-factor. Although he scored 11 points, he was just 3-for-10 from the floor.
Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin, who had had three fouls in the first half, led all scorers with 27 points.