The Cougars overcame a 14-point deficit behind a career-high from junior forward Fabian White Jr., who had 19 points and was named MVP of the entire tournament, as they defeated the No. 21 Huskies 75-71 to become the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic champions.
The game began with both teams shooting at a high-clip as they were at a standstill with the scored tied 7-7 until Houston’s offense was unable to continue firing at that high rate, and Washington gained separation and built a seven-point cushion twice at 16-9 and 18-11.
The game began with both teams shooting at a high-clip until they were at a standstill with the scored tied 7-7. Houston’s offense was unable to continue firing at that high rate, and Washington gained separation and built a seven-point cushion twice at 16-9 and 18-11.
Houston’s offense was up and down the entire game, but its defense never allowed Washington to build a gigantic cushion.
After a five-point spurt from the Cougars that cut the lead to two, the Huskies extended their advantage back to seven and the margin hovered around there until the 8:07 mark when Huskies’ junior guard Nahziah Carter hit a 3-pointer that ignited an 8-0 run that led to the No. 21 team in the nation to build a 14-point lead.
The biggest issue for Houston was the personal fouls as the team committed nine in the first half, which led to 13 free-throw attempts for Washington in the period.
The Cougars cleaned up their fouling issue in the final six minutes of the half, sending the Huskies to the line only once in those final minutes.
Houston closed out the half by outscoring Washington 10-1 and cutting the Huskies 14-point advantage to five. It was 36-31 at halftime.
The second half started with a made layup by Washington freshman forward Isaiah Stewart, who was also fouled on the play, which gave the Huskies the first strike.
Washington extended their lead back to 10, but White Jr. helped Houston get right back in the game.
White Jr. scored Houston’s first six points of the period.
Back-to-back slams from senior Chris Harris Jr. that brought Houston within two sparked a string of scoring possessions from both teams.
A 3-pointer from Washinton sophomore guard Quade Green pushed the lead back to five until freshman guard Marcus Sasser responded with a 3 of his own only for Washington’s Stewart to answer with an and-one layup, which was countered with a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Quentin Grimes.
With the score at 47-49, a 3-pointer from redshirt freshman Caleb Mills broke the streak of countering baskets between the two teams and also gave Houston their first lead of the half at 50-49.
Following that basket, both teams took turns trying to get the advantage as there were eight lead changes and three ties from that point onward.
A pair of free-throws from Grimes, a big defensive stop, and then a 3-point make from junior forward Justin Gorham led to Houston building a six-point lead at 66-60.
The Huskies rallied to cut the Cougars’ advantage to two on a couple of occasions, and they were forced to play the free-throw game.
Grimes came up huge down the stretch, making eight free-throws that ultimately iced the game for the Cougars.
Houston’s biggest advantage came on the glass as they outrebounded Washington 37-31. For the Cougars, 16 of those boards were offensive ones, which led to 17 huge second-chance points
White Jr. continued feasting against the Huskies’ zone, scoring 12 second-half points. Mills also finished with 19 points, and Grimes ended with 14, eight of which came from crunch-time free-throws.
Wednesday night’s game marks the final game of 2019. Houston returns to action on Jan. 3 as they begin conference play against UCF at Fertitta Center.