SEATTLE — With Washington’s top scorer C.J. Wilcox bottled up by Oregon State’s aggressive defense, Nigel Williams-Goss took over with one of the best performances by a freshman in UW history.
Williams-Goss scored a career-high 32 points as Washington rallied from 12 points down in the second half to beat Oregon State 87-81 on Saturday.
Williams-Goss’ point total was the most by a freshman at Washington since the NCAA made freshmen eligible in 1972 and the most scored by any Husky this season. He also didn’t have a turnover despite often working as the team’s primary ball handler, and held off a late rally by the Beavers when he was fouled on a drive and converted a three-point play in the final minute.
“I think that’s probably one of the best freshman performances we’ve seen in this building,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He was just very, very efficient offensively and defensively.”
Williams-Goss was 10 for 15 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers, and 9 for 10 on free throws. He also added five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“We’re a really unselfish team and we want everyone to play well, and when someone has a hot hand we feed them,” Williams-Goss said. “But at the same time, we try to play together no matter what so it was just a really good team effort.”
Wilcox added 14 points to pass the 1,700 career-point milestone and move into No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list despite being held in check most of the game as the Beavers had 6-foot-10 forward Eric Moreland covering the 6-5 guard.
“Moreland is a pretty tough guy to score against,” said Romar, who also had a milestone night, as he earned his 250th win as coach of the Huskies.
“In a game where they were really paying close attention to him with Moreland, it was great to see other guys step up.”
The Beavers’ focus on Wilcox meant Williams-Goss could often get into the lane for his scoring opportunities.
“When coach and I were watching the film yesterday, we called it the ‘C.J. effect,’” Williams-Goss said. “When he comes off screens, two guys jump at him and it opens up everyone on the floor, not just me. When you play with such a prolific scorer like C.J., it’s much easier.”
Washington (13-8, 5-3 Pac-12) trailed by 12 points with 18 minutes to go before taking control with a big run midway through the second half. The Huskies led by 11 with less than four minutes to play, but Oregon State (11-8, 3-4) cut it to 78-75 with a minute to go.
Williams-Goss put the game mostly out of reach when he converted the three-point play with 44.8 seconds left, and Washington closed the game by making six free throws in the final 32 seconds.
Roberto Nelson led the Beavers with 31 points, and Devon Collier had 23 points and six rebounds.
Nelson came into the game as the Pac-12’s top scorer with 21.7 points a game, and Wilcox was No. 2 at 19.9. In the battle between the two, Nelson held the upper hand except during the Huskies’ crucial run.
Nelson had seven points before Wilcox got off his first shot more than 10 minutes into the game, and Wilcox didn’t score until four minutes later. At halftime Nelson had scored 15 of OSU’s 38 points and Wilcox managed just four, spending the final minutes of the half on the bench after picking up his second foul.
With NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell watching courtside, Wilcox — and the Huskies — got off to a slow start again in the second half. The Beavers scored the first seven points of the half to take their largest lead of the game, 45-33.
Washington had cut the lead to six with 14 minutes to go, and then quickly turned the deficit into a double-digit advantage.
The Huskies went on a 14-2 run — including Wilcox’s first eight points of the half — to go ahead 59-55, and pushed the lead to 10 points, 68-58, with seven minutes left in the half.
“I thought we took a couple of quick shots and they got run outs,” Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. “We had done a really good job of getting back on defense. But when you take a quick shot, especially a three and you miss, people can run out on you and that’s what I thought happened.”
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Beavers, who haven’t beat UW in Seattle since 2003.