BERKELEY, Calif. — Joe Wolfinger has had few chances to show what he’s capable of in his first three years at Washington. This weekend in the Bay Area showed Huskies fans what they have to look forward to.
Wolfinger, a 7-foot center, scored a career-high 17 points on a perfect shooting night and Washington snapped a six-game losing streak in the Bay Area with a 87-84 victory over California on Saturday.
“I found myself open for those 3s and I hit them tonight,” Wolfinger said. “I’m getting back into my rhythm and getting more reps and shaking the rust off from last year.”
Wolfinger redshirted his freshman year and then missed all of last season with a stress fracture in his right foot. He could only practice for an hour a day at the start of this season and got little opportunity to contribute.
But as his health improved, he has started to get more of a chance to play. He scored 29 points in the two games this weekend, shooting 11-for-16 against Stanford and Cal after entering the weekend averaging 3.7 points per game.
“I was probably going to give him a look because he played well against Stanford. If a guy does a great job you have to give him another chance,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “These were meaningful minutes with the game close. He made big shots, made a couple of big defensive plays. He did a great job.”
Ryan Appleby scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half and Justin Dentmon and Quincy Pondexter added 12 apiece for the Huskies, who hadn’t won at Cal or Stanford since beating the Bears 106-73 in 2005.
Wolfinger picked up the offensive load after foul trouble limited the playing time for starting big men Jon Brockman and Artem Wallace. He made his all six shots from the field, including four 3-pointers. His 3-pointer with 3:12 remaining gave the Huskies an 80-70 lead.
“The most impressive thing about this win is us winning on the road with Jon Brockman in foul trouble,” Romar said. “I think that speaks to this team’s maturity that for the last seven games we’ve been playing for the most part the right way.”
Patrick Christopher and Eric Vierneisel answered with consecutive 3-pointers for the Golden Bears to end a nearly 5 minute scoreless drought and cut the deficit to four points with 2:11 to go.
Jerome Randle hit another 3 to make it 81-79, but Dentmon hit a hanger in the lane to build the lead back up to four points and the Huskies hung on from there.
The Huskies had lost their previous two games and both teams’ hopes for an NCAA bid rely on winning the Pac-10 tournament later this month.
Brockman went to the bench for Washington with his fourth foul with 16:07 left in the game and Hardin went out with four fouls for Cal less than 3 minutes later. But Wolfinger helped make sure Washington didn’t miss its big man.
“We knew Wolfinger was a very good shooter,” Cal’s DeVon Hardin said. “We had some slip-ups and let him get some open shots. That hurt us in the end. We knew coming into the game he was a big man who could knock it down.”