SEATTLE – This, still, is not what the Washington Huskies want their basketball games to look like.
Cal State Fullerton made a bunch of layups on Thursday. Shot pretty well from the perimeter, too. And the Huskies at times seemed incapable of defending without fouling, a recurring problem from last season that does not appear to be going away any time soon.
But they will take the result, imperfect as it might be, an exhausting 102-88 victory before a crowd of 6,284 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
The victory was the Huskies’ first of the season, but this was not a particularly healthy response to their season-opening, 98-90 defeat against Yale four days prior.
Fullerton shot 50.9 percent from the field (54.5 percent in the first half) to erase an 11-point halftime deficit, driving for easy baskets inside against a UW frontcourt that stacked up too many fouls too early.
So the Huskies might shudder to think how this game might have ended if not for star freshman Markelle Fultz, who leapt no buildings in a single bound, but did score a game-high 35 points with six assists and seemed able to get to the rim whenever he pleased.
Fultz made 10-of-14 from the field and 12-of-16 from the free-throw line, showing range with three 3-pointers and dazzling with a pair of reverse layups that will surely find a place on a highlight reel. He also ripped a pair of emphatic one-handed dunks in transition – the second following a steal of an inbounds pass at midcourt – to give UW a 13-point lead in the final four minutes.
Fultz led five UW players in double-figures. Sophomore guard Matisse Thybulle continues to show improvement, finishing with 15 points after scoring a career-best 20 in the season opener. Sophomore guard David Crisp added 17, senior forward Malik Dime scored 14 points and had eight rebounds, and sophomore guard Dominic Green scored 11 points.
Often as the Huskies (1-1) fouled, they found their own way to the free-throw line, too, making 29-of-38 in yet another game defined more by whistles than by feats of basketball skill. Fullerton tied the score at 68-68 with 11:57 to play, but the Huskies scored the game’s next 10 points – eight of them via free throw – and did not lead by fewer than seven points the rest of the game.
One undeniable positive for the Huskies: they rebounded. Yale conked them to the tune of 42-29 on the glass last weekend, scoring 19 second-chance points on 21 offensive boards.
Thursday was a little different. Fullerton managed only five rebounds in the first half and 19 total. The Huskies grabbed 20 before halftime and finished with 35.
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