SEATTLE, Wash. (AP) – From winning its first 11 games to being ranked in the Top 15, to dismissing its most important defensive player, to losing 10 of 11, Washington’s perplexing season added another unlikely chapter on Saturday.
Of all those events, beating No. 13 Utah might be the most surprising.
”Today was fun to watch from a coach’s perspective because we played right for 40 minutes on both ends of the floor,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
Nigel Williams-Goss scored 28 points, including a deep 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining as the shot clock was about to expire, and Washington rallied to stun the 13th-ranked Utes 77-68.
The Huskies played an inspired final game of the regular season, putting together an effort that was consistent only in rare spurts during the conference season. Williams-Goss received plenty of help. Andrew Andrews had 16 points and Mike Anderson added 15 in his final home game.
Washington (16-14, 5-13 Pac-12) was 15-4 after winning at Colorado on Jan. 22, and appeared bound for the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies proceeded to lose their next seven games and 10 of 11 as injuries and player discipline left the Huskies short-handed. Included in that skid was a 21-point loss to the Utes in Salt Lake City.
For at least an afternoon, that troubling six-week stretch where the Huskies tumbled to near the bottom of the Pac-12 standings was forgotten.
”I think from the start, I thought we came out and played with a lot of energy, a lot of confidence,” Williams-Goss said.
Jernard Jarreau scored a career-high 14 for Washington including three 3-pointers, after entering the game with two 3s in his career.
Utah (23-7, 13-5) lost for the third time in five games and will now be the No. 3 seed for next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas after finishing in a tie with Oregon. Delon Wright led the Utes with 21 points.
Jakob Poeltl of the Utes had 18 points, but was held to three in the second half. Poeltl was 7 of 7 from the field in the first half but was taken out of the game by Washington in the final 20 minutes.
The loss dropped Utah into a tie with Oregon but the Utes lost the head-to-head tiebreaker having lost to the Ducks in their only regular season meeting.
”We lost some pride and hopefully it’s a nice little wake up call for a bunch of guys that have been drinking some Kool-Aid that think we’re a lot better than we are,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. ”We’re making the game way too complicated.”
On the verge of watching Utah run away, the Huskies surged into the lead midway through the second half behind a 22-8 run. Washington pulled even at 45 on Anderson’s driving layup and his two free throws on the next possession gave Washington its first lead since 30-29 late in the first half. Utah went more than 6 minutes without scoring before Dakarai Tucker’s fastbreak layup off a Washington turnover with 9:11 left.
Jordan Loveridge added a banked 3-pointer but the Washington run continued. Jarreau sandwiched two 3-pointers around Andrews’ driving layup, the second 3 giving Washington a 55-50 lead with 6:44 left.
Loveridge later hit another 3 with 3:13 left to cut Utah’s deficit to four, but Williams-Goss answered with another floater and hit the key 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire. Washington was 8 of 8 at the free throw line in the final minute.
Utah: The Utes will have a bye on the first day of the conference tournament and play Thursday evening.