SEATTLE — Considering it’s the holiday season, the Huskies gladly accepted a gift from Cal State Fullerton.
The Titans committed a slew of unnecessary fouls in a game that neither team led by more than four in the final five minutes, and Washington converted five of six free throws in the final 32.2 seconds for a 74-72 victory Sunday.
“It was a scrappy win,” said guard C.J. Wilcox, who finished with 21 points on 7-for-21 shooting. “They definitely gave us some opportunities to get it done by fouling us late in the game.
“We took advantage of our opportunities.”
Wilcox scored the winning points with 3.6 seconds left, capping a five-minute flurry at Alaska Airlines Arena in front of 7,200.
After trailing 43-29 at halftime, Washington appeared to seize momentum when Aziz N’Diaye flushed a dunk with 2:57 left that gave the Huskies their first lead (67-65) since the opening minute.
However, the Titans (3-4) didn’t go away easily.
Fifth-year guard D.J. Seeley routinely blew past UW guards and finished with a game-high 24 points.
Meanwhile, the Huskies relied on Wilcox and an inexperienced backcourt consisting of redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews and sophomore Hikeem Stewart because leg cramps kept senior co-captain Abdul Gaddy out for the final five minutes.
Seeley tied the score at 67 with free throws, and after a Wilcox jumper, Fullerton guard Alex Harris knotted the score at 69 with a layup at the 25-second mark.
And that’s when things got strange.
On the ensuing play, Harris intentionally fouled Andrews in the backcourt near the Titans bench. Andrews made both free throws to put Washington up 71-69.
The Huskies looked as if they had wrapped up the game after Stewart deflected a pass and Andrews collected the ball.
The Titans immediately fouled Andrews, sending him to the line. He made the first shot and missed the second to give Washington a 72-69 lead with 10.9 seconds left.
Harris made amends for his gaffe on the next play when he drained a three-pointer from the corner to tie the score with 3.6 seconds remaining.
The game appeared headed to overtime before Seeley fouled Wilcox, an 83.1 percent career free-throw shooter, in the backcourt.
Wilcox made both free throws and Washington improved to 4-3 after Harris missed an off-balance three-point shot as time expired.
The Huskies may have been fortunate to overcome a miserable first-half offensive performance when they connected on nine of 30 field goals, but don’t call them lucky.
Not with sophomore forward Desmond Simmons scoring 14 points and collecting 18 rebounds, the most since Jon Brockman in 2009.
“For us to come back, it wasn’t a miracle or just by chance that we got back into the game,” Simmons said. “It was because we fought back. We were more physical on defense. We rebounded. We eliminated some of their second-chance points. We really just geared down and grinded it out.
“I wouldn’t say so much lucky. ... We pulled through because of us.”
Andrews finished with a career-high 13 points, and N’Diaye had 12.
“We played aggressive,” Titans interim coach Andy Newman said. “We made two mental errors that ended up costing us.”
Given the absence of Scott Suggs (plantar fasciitis) and Shawn Kemp Jr. (knee), Washington coach Lorenzo Romar called the victory Sunday the biggest triumph of the nonconference season. He expects the injured players to return next week.
“We had to get over the hump of this game,” he said. “Somehow we survived, and we’re ready to move on.”
Washington has an overtime victory and two wins by five points or less, a possible indicator of more nail-biters in its future.
“We have the potential to beat teams by 10-15 (points),” Wilcox said. “But we have to find ways to grind it out and just find ways to win the game.”