Huskies beat New Mexico St. in spite of their own inept play

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, November 25, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

SEATTLE – Months from now, they’ll look at the game on the schedule, notice the ‘W’ beside it and move on.

But Saturday, after the Washington Huskies’ wild, 81-77 victory over New Mexico State at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the glaring flaws were as raw as an exposed nerve. Missed free throws and turnovers late in the game turned a potential 20-point blowout into what could easily have been an embarrassing defeat.

“There’s no excuse the way we shot free throws,” said UW forward Thalo Green, who finished with 17 points, a team-high, and seven rebounds.

Washington was 25-for-49 from the line for the game, but that tells only part of the story. In the last 2:12, the Huskies (1-1) were 11-for-24, including one 22-second stretch of 1-for-6.

The incessant clanging allowed the Aggies (1-3) to cut a late, 12-point deficit to 78-77 with 8.2 seconds remaining on a 3-pointer by Brandon Mason.

It also meant that the Huskies had to guard against themselves. Washington kept possession after two missed free throws in the last 7.3 seconds by two tip-backs to teammates. The first, by forward Greg Clark, went to Bryan Brown, who was immediately mugged and went to the free-throw line for two shots …

… both of which he missed.

But forward Will Perkins tipped Brown’s second miss back to UW guard Michael Johnson, who made the second of two freebies after he, too, was mugged to make it a 79-77 Husky advantage.

“We work on tip drills every day, and I’m glad we do,” Clark said. “You don’t want to grab it, because you jump better when you’re using only one hand.”

New Mexico State had the ball and 2.2 seconds with which to do something with it, but forward Ryan McDermott winged the ball out of bounds, three-quarters down the court, and the Huskies survived.

To be fair, it was a much better effort than the Huskies’ languid 73-61 loss to UTEP Tuesday. Among Washington’s staunch efforts was one turned in by Green, who helped the Huskies pull away in the second half with 12 points in a three-minute stretch.

In addition, forward Perkins had his second straight double-double, with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Johnson finished with 15 points and four assists. The bench turned in a solid contribution, led by Marlin Shelton (nine points, 4-for-5 from the floor) and Curtis Allen (nine points, three assists, 4-for-6 shooting).

“We really needed a win,” UW coach Bob Bender said. ” … The free-throw shooting almost took away some of the good things that we did. I liked the way we moved the basketball. Our turnovers were certainly much better and on the defensive end, we had pretty good concentration.”

Bender stuck with his starters down the stretch, even with the missed free throws and several turnovers when the Aggies decided to slap on a fullcourt press. This, even though he left his best ballhandlers, Allen and C.J. Massingale, both freshmen, on the bench.

But Bender was loyal to his upperclassmen, figuring they’ve been through more and wouldn’t clinch up under pressure.

“As long as we have veterans available, that’s what we’re going to do,” Bender said. “We talked about it, as long as we had a 10-point lead, we were going to finish with (Allen and Massingale). But it’s a fine line. I just don’t want them to have a bad experience in a close game with the press if we can help it. We needed to win the game.”

Guard Eric Channing led the Aggies with 24 points.


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