SEATTLE — All night, Mike Black found ways to maneuver around the Huskies on the perimeter before darting into the lane and flipping in high-arcing layups.
Washington couldn’t corral the fleet Albany senior guard and on the game’s biggest play, he blew past C.J. Wilcox and threw up a shot that kissed the glass and landed softly in net with 3.7 seconds remaining.
Without a timeout, Abdul Gaddy launched a desperation three-pointer from NBA range that bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim, capping a 63-62 defeat that stunned the crowd of 7,041 at Alaska Airlines arena into silence.
The only sound echoing inside the building was the hooting and hollering from the Great Danes, who celebrated what Black called “the biggest win in the program’s history” as they raced off the court.
It was Albany’s first victory against an opponent from a BCS conference since the school joined the Division I ranks in 2000.
“This is our biggest individual win,” Albany coach Will Brown said. “They’re the defending Pac-12 champions. They don’t lose much in this building.”
The last time the Huskies lost at home to a nonconference opponent was last Dec. 18, a 92-73 blowout defeat to South Dakota State.
In many ways, Tuesday’s setback was more startling because the Huskies are a veteran group who say they’ve learned from last season’s mistakes.
And yet, for much of the night coach Lorenzo Romar hardly recognized his team.
“For whatever reasons, simple mundane things that we practiced over and over that we did in the last game (an 85-63 win over Loyola on Sunday), we weren’t mentally doing early,” he said. “We weren’t ourselves for whatever reason.”
Black had a lot to do with that.
In the opening minutes, he inadvertently delivered an elbow to UW guard Scott Suggs’ head, sending him to the locker room with a concussion and knocking him out of the game.
In the final minutes, Black, who scored a game-high 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, delivered the final decisive blow.
“Mike Black tapped me on the shoulder (before the final play) and said, ‘Coach, just make sure we get the ball inbounds. Don’t call a play because I’ll make sure we walk out of here with a win,’” Brown said. “I said, ‘OK. Here’s what we’re doing. Get Mike the ball at the top of the key and get the (heck) out of his way.’ “
Albany’s offense in the final 10 minutes consisted of Black rubbing off picks from 6-10 junior forward John Puk, which often left him one on one against 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye (13 points and 11 rebounds) or redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews.
Neither Husky stood a chance.
“I don’t want to sound cocky or anything, but I have confidence in myself,” Black said.
On Washington’s final defensive stand, Romar substituted N’Diaye for sophomore guard Hikeem Stewart to put a quicker defender on the floor. C.J. Wilcox drew the defensive assignment on Black.
The defensive changes didn’t matter as Black scored on a dribble-drive layup.
“You’re always expecting help, but I should have done a better job,” said Wilcox, who had an off night offensively and finished with 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
Seemingly, everything that could possibly go wrong for the Huskies went wrong.
After losing Suggs, forward Desmond Simmons missed seven minutes in the first half while receiving stitches in the locker room to close a gash over his right eye.
Without injured big man Shawn Kemp Jr., depth was a concern for the Huskies going into the game and for a long stint they had just seven scholarship players available.
Washington trailed 31-27 at halftime and seemingly took control midway in the second half with a 48-40 advantage.
“We weathered that run in the second half and I thought if we could just hang around and get it down to that eight-minute mark and four-minute mark within striking range, that there would be pressure on them,” Brown said. “We just played loose.”
The lead changed five times in the last five minutes.
Gaddy, who scored a team-high 16 points, might have been the Husky hero when he scored on a putback that gave UW the lead with 18 seconds left.
Instead a the Huskies (1-1) are searching for answers after what were supposed to be their last tuneup in the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Tournament before flying to Uncasville, Conn., for Saturday’s game against Seton Hall (2-0) and a potential Sunday matchup with No. 4 Ohio State (1-0).
The immediate future looks murky for Washington, which may not have Suggs.
“If this is a re-occurring theme, it will be a very, very big blow,” Romar said.