Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey shot the Eagles to a 48-39 halftime lead with 20 points, including five first-half threes. Washington guard Nigel Williams-Goss scored 13 in the second half to help the Huskies to a much-needed 92-80 comeback win at Alaska Airlines Arena Sunday.
Williams-Goss scored a career-best 22 points. He filled his stat sheet by driving to the rim. Again and again.
The third game of his college career was about what coach Lorenzo Romar expected from the McDonald’s All-America selection: 9 of 15 shooting from the field, 4 of 5 from the free-throw line, six rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes.
“I think Nigel showed tonight why he’s been a part of so many wins,” Romar said of his freshman point guard. “He just had a determined look about him tonight. He was so efficient with the basketball, constantly chattering, constantly lifting guys up. Instructing.
“That’s what a floor general does.”
It took three-quarters of the game before the rest followed.
The Huskies (2-1) trailed 70-63 with 10:17 remaining after Harvey made the sixth of seven threes.
Fans talked quietly with their neighbors. A small white sign in the upper deck read “Go Dawgs,” though patrons had few reasons to say it. The Eagles, who last season finished ninth in the Big Sky Conference, were controlling the tempo and shooting well.
Andrew Andrews countered with an “and-one,” making the free throw to cut the lead to four. A minute later, Williams-Goss earned a trip to the line and made both free throws, then followed an Eastern turnover with another score.
The burst evolved into a 12-0 run, capped when Williams-Goss drew mid-layup another foul.
“I just like to play and let the game come to me,” Williams-Goss said. “It just seemed like as the game went on those lanes became more open. I have to give a lot of credit to Perris (Blackwell) for setting a lot of screens in transition.”
“I was just running the floor like we’re supposed to do,” said Blackwell, who collected 16 points and 11 rebounds. “I was just screening them off when I was supposed to and he was just driving around, so that was really helping us play really good in transition.”
Williams-Goss led the four-guard lineup that Romar has opted to run with since power forward Jernard Jarreau sustained a torn ACL in the early moments of the season-opening win against Seattle University. Williams-Goss stayed steady when the Huskies trailed by as many as 12 in the first half.
“I’ve started to adjust really well,” Williams-Goss said. “Progressively, each game has slowed down for me. I kind of see it getting easier out there while I try to adjust to the speed and physicality of the game.”
The Huskies held a modest 14-10 advantage in fast break points. They nearly tripled Eastern’s output from the foul line, going 31 of 34 while the Eagles managed 11 of 23.
“The way fouls are being called, if you make your free throws it definitely helps,” Romar said. “When the first few go in, and everybody sees the ball go in, it’s a little easier.”
The win was anything but.
Eastern trimmed the lead to 81-79 with 4:32 left when Harvey scored his 28th and final points on a drive through the lane. The Eagles didn’t come closer after senior C.J. Wilcox (15 points and eight rebounds) dropped a pull-up 10-footer, then freshman guard Darin Johnson (12 points and four rebounds) followed with back-to-back scores.
The Huskies had their bounce-back win three days after a humiliating 86-72 loss to UC Irvine.
Asked to evaluate through three games, Romar was blunt. The Huskies play their third game of the 2K Sports Classic against Indiana Thursday in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“Inconsistent,” he said. “We’ve put forth the effort. We’ve done a decent job, we haven’t looked putrid . . .it’s something hopefully we can build on.”