LAS VEGAS — The three-pointers weren’t falling early, so the Washington men’s basketball team resorted to Plan B.
In the second half, the Huskies repeatedly drove to the basket and held off Xavier in the final seconds for a 74-71 win on Friday night at the Continental Tire Main Event at T-Mobile Arena.
Keion Brooks Jr. overcame a sluggish 5-for-17 shooting performance and scored a game-high tying 20 points while Sahvir Wheeler had 18 points and Koren Johnson came off the bench and chipped in 10 points.
The Huskies missed 11 of 12 three-point attempts in the first half, including a handful of wide-open perimeter shots when Xavier defenders were lax defensively and late to close out on shooters.
Moses Wood was 0 for 4 from downtown while Koren Johnson was 1 for 4 and Anthony Holland 0 for 2.
Brooks’ 1-for-10 shooting was equally troubling for the Huskies, which shot 27.8% from the floor in the first half.
If not for Wheeler’s daring dribble drives for contested layups and 12 points, the Huskies’ halftime deficit would have been much larger than 37-30.
At the break, Washington tweaked the offense, abandoned its perimeter attack and attacked the basket on nearly every possession in the second half.
Down 44-36, the Huskies used a 14-6 run capped by a Wheeler’s fast break layup to tie it up at 50-50 with 12:43 left.
Minutes later, Paul Mulcahy drained a couple of free throws that put UW up 54-53 for its first lead since midway in the first half.
Ahead 71-69, Wood made a difficult midrange jumper with 19 seconds left as the shot clock expired. Xavier sank a layup on the ensuing possession to pull within two once again.
Brooks hit one of two free throw attempts on UW’s next offensive trip and Xavier’s Quincy Olivari missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
On Sunday, Washington plays San Diego State, which beat Saint Mary’s 79-54 Friday night in first game at Continental Tire Main Event.