UW slips by Hartford to end nonconference play

Andrews Hartford

Andrews Hartford -

Sophomore guard Andrew Andrews scored 19 points and pulled down five rebounds against Hartford in the UW's nonconference finale. 

Photo by Andrew Tat

The players and coaches on the Hartford bench stomped their feet, clapped their hands, and chanted: “De-fense! De-fense!” In the final minutes of Sunday’s game against the Washington men’s basketball team, the Hawks were on the verge of their first win over a Pac-12 team ever and full of energy. On the other sideline, everyone on the UW bench was sitting, hands clasped, elbows on their knees: no clapping and no cheering.

There wasn’t much to cheer for on the UW end. That is, until the final horn sounded.

The Huskies (8-5) barely avoided a disastrous finish to their nonconference finale, beating Hartford, 73-67. Despite coming away with the win, the UW struggled on both ends of the floor, but came up with a 10-2 run to end the game and secure the victory.

“We’ve played close games so when we get another one, we know how to handle ourselves and finish the game,” senior guard C.J. Wilcox said. “But every game is different. We just weren’t making shots [Sunday], so we had to rely on our defense and I think that is something we can take away.”

Wilcox finished with a team-high 23 points, 18 of which came in the second half, and led the Huskies down the stretch with critical free throws.

Hartford’s Corban Wroe received a technical foul with five minutes left after a dustup with Wilcox when the UW guard was fouled. Wilcox went to the foul line and hit 3-of-4, which gave the Huskies a four-point cushion, the largest lead either team had had since the 11:41 mark in the second half when Hartford led by four.

“That was a good turning point,” Wilcox said of the sequence. “When stuff like that happens, it’s good to band together and play as a team and play together and play for each other and I think we did a good job of that.”

The Hawks took a two-point lead with just more than four minutes left, but the Huskies knocked down two straight baskets to take the lead back for the final time. It was a back-and-forth affair with 11 ties and 18 lead changes, but the UW came through with a victory, thanks to a season-low seven turnovers and focus that head coach Lorenzo Romar praised afterward.

“You may look at the score and see that it was a six-point win over a team that wasn’t nationally ranked and high-profile, and think we were just OK,” Romar said. “I would say that I was really proud of our guys because … I thought our guys stayed focused for pretty much the entire game, and that’s what we’ve been looking for. That has kind of been something that has escaped us.”

Hartford started out hot from the field, making six of its first 11 shots from the field, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, while the Huskies struggled to put down open shots against the Hartford zone. Even when Hartford was stuck in a scoring drought that lasted more than four minutes, the Huskies couldn’t convert on the offensive end. Despite trailing for much of the first half, the UW took a two-point lead into halftime as Hartford never capitalized on the UW's struggling offense.

Sophomore Andrew Andrews led the Huskies at the half with 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting, but offense was hard to come by for the home team in the first half as the UW only shot 35.7 percent from the field.

Both Wilcox and Andrews said the Huskies were fooled by Hartford’s zone, the senior saying they just “couldn’t figure it out,” and Andrews calling it very tricky. However, the Hawks went man-to-man more in the second half, which played into the UW’s hands almost perfectly.

“Our eyes lit up when they went man,” Wilcox said.

The Huskies were 10-of-17 from the field in the second half, led by Wilcox and Andrews, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds. Although the Hawks countered with an efficient scoring duo in the paint with Nate Sikma and Mark Nwakamma, who combined for 37 points, they couldn’t keep a lead as they committed 14 turnovers. The Hawks outshot the UW, making 55.8 percent of their shots from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line.

Sunday’s win was the UW’s nonconference finale, as the Huskies now dive into Pac-12 play, starting Thursday on the road against Arizona State at 5 p.m.

Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21

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