SEATTLE — The duty that has fallen to C.J. Wilcox in the past was instead picked up by Andrew Andrews on Wednesday night when Washington needed scoring in the second half.
Andrews scored 12 of his 19 points in the final nine minutes, and Washington was pushed to the final seconds before holding on for a 59-57 win over Utah in the Huskies conference home opener.
Coming off a split in the desert, Washington could not shake the Utes (12-3, 1-2 Pac-12) until the final seconds when Delon Wright’s contested desperation attempt 3-pointer from the corner was off the mark.
Only then could Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies appreciate how good Andrews was down the stretch.
“We usually talk about our defensive identity and things like that,” Romar said. “Tonight I would really have to give hats off to (Andrew) and how he came through when we were having trouble scoring the ball.”
Andrews made 8 of 14 shots and the 19 points were two shy of a career-high. It was his three-point play with 8:43 left that gave Washington a 44-43 lead and the Huskies never again trailed despite being pushed to the final buzzer.
Wilcox added 14 points and Nigel Williams-Goss scored 13 for the Huskies (10-6, 2-1).
“The more people are going to be focusing in on (Wilcox); when I’m playing well it will take a little pressure off him and open him up,” Andrews said. “So eventually toward the end hopefully they are keying in on me a little bit to get him more shots.”
Wright led Utah with 27 points and 11 rebounds and Washington had no answers for the talented guard in the second half with his ability off the dribble to get to the basket. Wright scored 18 points in the second half, but the Utes made 1 of 15 3-point attempts. Utah came in to Wednesday night shooting 36 percent on 3s.
“When you are on the road, you have to be more than one guy with a great game,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “You have to have contributions from some different guys, and I thought that overall we were pretty deficient in what we were trying to do.”
Even with Andrews’ hot shooting down the stretch, the Huskies nearly coughed up a nine-point lead in the final two minutes.
Wright’s 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left cut the Huskies lead to 59-57. It was the Utes first made 3. Andrews was fouled and missed the front-end of a one-and-one, but the rebound went out of bounds off the Utes. After a timeout, Washington’s Mike Anderson threw away the inbound pass and Utah took possession with 9.2 seconds left down two.
Wright was forced into the corner and his contested 3-pointer at the buzzer was off line. Washington wanted to cut off driving lanes for Wright and make sure any 3-point attempts were contested. The defense worked and Wright’s shot was off.
It was the second time in three conference games the Utes couldn’t pull out a victory in the final seconds, losing 70-68 to Oregon in overtime in the conference opener last week.
“We have to close out these close games and figure out where we’re going,” Krystkowiak said. “We put these things in our memory banks and we learn from them and move from there.”
Jordan Loveridge added 10 points for the Utes. Brandon Taylor, Utah’s third-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game, was held to four points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Washington tried to pull away at several points in the second half, and every time Utah responded Andrews was there with an answer.
Andrews’ three-point play gave Washington a 44-43 lead, and a pair of transition baskets — layups by Wilcox and Anderson off turnovers — pushed the Huskies lead to five.
Twice Utah closed within two. Andrews answered the first time with a fadeaway midrange jumper and after Wright scored to cut the lead to 52-50, Williams-Goss beat the Utes down court and scored on a driving layup for a 54-50 lead with 3:23 left.
Utah went inside to Dallin Bachynski, but he was stripped and Andrews was fouled. Washington was not in the bonus, but Andrews converted with a 15-footer and a 56-50 lead with 2:45 left. Andrews then capped his night with a leaning 3-pointer with 1:51 left as the shot clock was about to expire to give Washington a nine-point lead that was barely enough.
“Once he hit a couple we just ran stuff for him to put the ball in his hands,” Romar said.