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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Husky men overcome plenty of mistakes to take down Cal

By Percy Allen Seattle Times

BERKELEY, Calif. – With 6 minutes left in the first half, Keion Brooks Jr. darted past a defender into the lane with the ball cuffed in his right hand before elevating and packing a powerful dunk over California’s ND Okafor.

It was as if the Husky standout unloaded weeks’ worth of frustration stemming from a sluggish first-half performance and a couple of subpar outings in the previous three games.

“I had a three-game stretch that was a little tough,” Brooks said. “I wasn’t playing to my standard, but we were winning and my teammates picked me up so it’s about time that I came out and did my part. That was just one of those ones where I saw the lane open up and turned my hand over and dunked it.”The dunk was one of a handful of highlights during a ragged Thursday night performance in which the Washington men’s basketball team overcame a slew of self-inflicted miscues before securing its third straight win – a 65-56 victory in front of a sparse crowd at Haas Pavilion.

“We couldn’t seem to put them away,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “They’re at home. They’re fighting, but our guys at the end of the day found a way to win. We made some foul shots down the stretch and got the stops we needed.”

Washington captured the regular-season series against Cal for the second straight season and improved to 16-13, 8-10 in the Pac-12.

The Huskies never trailed and led for more than 39 minutes, but that doesn’t mean they were always in control of a physical game that included frequent verbal sparring between players and officials that resulted in eight technical fouls, four on each team.

“You just try to keep your team poised,” Hopkins said. “A lot of chirping back and forth. A lot of physical play. The refs were watching a lot. You got to stay poised. You can’t let a non-call or a foul that you think is not a foul keep you from playing. But it was awkward. It was a choppy game.”

The Huskies did themselves no favors while committing 16 turnovers, connecting on just 15 of 26 free throws and drawing two flopping calls.

“We felt like we were in control,” Brooks said. “I felt like the things they were doing to get back in the game were caused by our errors. They didn’t really do anything. We were losing the ball, not rotating and giving up open threes. Stuff like that.

“We felt like we had control of the game. Moving forward we have to control our body language and make sure it stays positive because we were winning, but if you looked at our faces you would have thought otherwise.”

Brooks averaged just 11 points in the previous three games, which is six fewer than his season average, and the senior forward was intent on breaking out of his scoring slump.

“I wasn’t playing to my standard,” said Brooks, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 11 rebounds that offset five turnovers. “But we were winning and my teammates picked me up so it’s about time that I came out and did my part.”

Strangely, his highlight dunk didn’t produce the effect the Huskies had hoped and sparked a 7-0 Cal run that cut their deficit to 22-20.

Washington recovered and closed the half with a 12-2 run to take a 32-24 lead into the break.

Following Langston Wilson’s midrange jumper, the Huskies stretched their lead to 49-31 with 12:03 left and seemed poised to capture a comfortable rout.

However, Cal used a 19-7 run to trim its deficit to 56-50 with 3:53 left.

Momentum swung on the ensuing possession when the Golden Bears collected their fourth technical foul. Brooks drained the two free throws and sank a layup for a four-point swing that put UW up 60-50.

Keyon Menifield finished with 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, five rebounds and five assists, while Koren Johnson added 10 points and two steals off the bench.

Sam Alajiki scored 13 points and Grant Newell 12 for Cal (3-25, 2-15), which lost its 12th straight game.

“It got real chippy, but those are the types of games that you like,” Brooks said. “You don’t want it to be all soft and stuff. They came out and fought hard. They were physical. We knew they were going to do that. Those are the type of games that you get up for because you know it’s going to be a little back and forth. But credit to them, we got up big and they didn’t go away.”

After the game, Husky assistant Will Conroy summed up the sentiment for many UW fans when he passed by Brooks in the hallway and yelled: “Good to have you back!”

Brooks smiled and said: “It’s good to be back.”