Despite a sloppy first half and persistent jumpiness, the Washington Huskies overcame Long Beach State at home, 107-102, in the first round of the NIT.
Tuesday’s NIT first-round matchup between the University of Washington men’s basketball team and Long Beach State University was a West Coast shootout: mistake-prone, defense optional. After trailing by 13 points midway through the first half, the Huskies clawed their way to a 107-102 win (box). Freshman guard Dejounte Murray had the second 30-point game of his career while the teams combined for 35 turnovers.
Trailing by one point with 35 seconds to play, the 49ers’ Justin Bibbins brought the ball up before zipping a pass to Travis Hammonds, who tripped as the ball rolled past his face, out of play. Washington senior Andrew Andrews was fouled and sank both free throws.
As the clock rolled under :20, Bibbins raced down the court, bringing the ball under the hoop before kicking it out to Nick Faust on the perimeter. Faust went for the baseline three-pointer, but it hit the side iron and came out, leading to another trip for Andrews to the charity stripe. Andrews didn’t disappoint, going a perfect 8-of-8 from the line in the game’s final minute.
“Early on, I just didn’t think our effort was there — it was poor effort,” said coach Lorenzo Romar. “Once our effort was at the proper level, the game began to change.”
The false start left the Huskies staggering. In particular, the 5-foot-8 Bibbins’ speed drew the Huskies away from their marks, leaving a multitude of outlets available to help the visitors jump to a 12-4 lead.
Washington also committed four shooting fouls beyond the arc, leading to 12 points for the 49ers.
Romar went to the trouble of earning himself a technical foul after Marquese Chriss picked up a foul for soft contact. Romar probably didn’t mind the technical; the Piniella-esque performance, complete with leaping and pointing, seemed to help jar his team awake.
Trailing 51-46 at the break, Romar called his team out.
“A lot of guys were down, and coach said, ’Some of you guys look like you don’t care about the season being over,’” said Murray. “I spoke up and said, ‘I care.’ I think my play in the second half showed it.”
While Murray’s play was a big boost, it was Chriss’ second period that made the difference. The freshman scored six of Washington’s first eight points, and nearly earned a double-double in 19 minutes—18 points and 9 rebounds, four on offense. Chriss finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth career double-double.
The 49ers had five players in double figures, including senior guard Nick Faust’s 8-of-22, 26 point performance. Bibbins finished next with 17 points, though the sophomore also committed seven turnovers.
The Huskies travel to San Diego State for a second round game on Monday, time and network TBA.