Injuries left the Huskies shorthanded and it clearly made a difference tonighf. The Washington offense looked dead on arrival in the first half as the Dawgs fell behind while looking very flat. A surprising nearly 50-point 2nd half though catapulted Washington to a 75-67 victory over North Florida. Keyon Menifield Jr. Had a game high 21 points to lead the way as UW improves to 2-0 on the year.
Washington's bad news started before the game as both Noah Williams and Keion Brooks Jr. were unavailable due to injury. Williams hurt his knee in the season opener but Brooks' absence was a surprise. True freshman Keyon Menifield Jr. and Cole Bajema started in their place.
The first 30 seconds didn't go UW's way as North Florida struck first on an offensive putback. On the other end Braxton Meah picked up a quick offensive foul away from the ball. Washington answered though thanks to Menifield in his first career start. He found Braxton Meah for an alley-oop slam and the next time down hit a nice floater. PJ Fuller competed an and-1 layup and Menifield made a technical free throw to finish off an 8-0 Husky run.
It was a foul fest at the beginning but North Florida took the worst of it. Their starting center and only player over 6'9 committed 2 fouls in 3 minutes and took a seat on the bench.
That might have been a blessing though for the Ospreys as backup center Jonathan Aybar came in and scored their next 6 points. Langston Wilson made his first appearance of the season with Brooks out but missed his first 3 shots and committed 2 fouls including on a 3-point jump shot. He made 2/3 at the line to tie the game at 10.
Against an undersized Osprey team the Huskies kept attacking the rim but couldn't get a foul call and couldn't make a contested shot. Washington missed about 5 bunnies near the basket over a few minutes as they went into a major scoring drought. Meanwhile, Jose Placer got to the rim on consecutive possessions and put in layups high off the glass to avoid Braxton Meah and his 7'1 stature's reach. Keyon Menifield found the answer to UW's scoring woes by taking over. Over the next few minutes he got to the line, made a layup, hit a 3, and hit a midrange jumper to put UW up 21-16 and force an Osprey timeout.
Washington's offense went back into their funk though with more wild drives to the rim plus missed floaters and layups. North Florida started to find some breathing room on the perimeter and hit a few 3's as part of an 8-0 run to retake the lead. Langston Wilson ended the run with an alley-oop slam from PJ Fuller.
Braxton Meah continued to struggle on both ends of the floor. North Florida consistently got to the rim and despite the size disadvantage got Meah to bite in the wrong direction and easily put it in over his very long arms. Washington finished the first half shooting 26% from the field and 10% from 3 while trailing 34-26. Menifield had 12 for UW at the break while no one else had more than 5.
Meah started the 2nd half getting more involved on offense. He finished a pair of dunks, 1 on a putback and 1 on a lob. Unfortunately he committed 2 quick fouls on defense and Kepnang came in for him after just 3 minutes. Kepnang came in and kept things rolling with a pair of dunks on his 2 possessions. Washington finally got a chance for a fastbreak as Fuller dove on the ball and got it ahead to Menifield for an easy slam to tie the game at 42 prompting a UNF timeout.
The stoppage was seemingly a good one for the Ospreys. Franck Kepnang blocked a shot against the backboard but it rolled in anyways. Then North Florida, after a Husky miss, dribbled straight into a 3-pointer to answer with a quick 5-0 run and stop any UW momentum.
Washington was able to tie it up at 49 on 3 free throws by Cole Bajema but both teams struggled to get their offenses going for a while. North Florida scraped together a pair of baskets to go up 4 points prompting a Mike Hopkins timeout.
The Huskies finally took the lead after a pair of Franck Kepnang steals. On the first he started the fast break and passed it off to Jamal Bey for a layup. Then despite playing 4v5 with PJ Fuller on the ground, Keyon Menifield found himself open and canned a 3 to put the Dawgs up 56-54 with just over 7 minutes remaining.
North Florida reclaimed the lead a little later after UW played great D for 25 seconds before the Ospreys found an open man for a 3. Jamal Bey finally made an impact though as he answered with a 3 of his own after a trade of dunks. Then he drove to the lane and finally got a call at the rim for an and-1 layup. Bey missed the free throw though to put Washington up 65-61 with 3:58 remaining.
The Dawgs caught some breaks when PJ Fuller dribbled it off his foot but Bey saved it just before it went out of bounds. Then Kepnang cleaned up a Menifield miss with a tap-in on what easily could've been goal tending. North Florida essentially threw the ball to Will Conroy on the ensuing inbounds and Washington got another Kepnang dunk off the turnover to go up 69-61 with 2 minutes left.
The game was not over though. Kepnang missed a pair of free throws and North Florida answered with a quick 3 and then called timeout. Washington passed it to Kepnang on the inbounds and the Ospreys quickly fouled. He predictably missed the front end of the 1 and 1 and North Florida hit another 3 to close it to just 2. Fortunately Keyon Menifield played his role of finisher to perfection winding down the shot clock and making a layup to put the Dawgs back up 71-67 with 44 seconds remaining. After a missed UNF deep shot Keyon was fouled and made both to ice it.
Menifield ended up scoring 21 points on an inefficient 21 shots but was the only Husky who could regularly break down the opposing defense or hit an outside shot. Franck Kepnang finished with a double double, scoring 16 points with 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Cole Bajema also had a big rebounding night with 11 as UW won that battle 48-39. PJ Fuller did admirably as the default point guard with 7 points, 7 assists, and just 1 turnover.
Washington committed just 6 turnovers although they also forced just 9 from the Ospreys. The Huskies ended up shooting 38% from the floor and 23% from 3. It was just good enough as UNF couldn't hit enough 3's (8/29) to make up the difference.
The Huskies return to Hec-Ed on Monday night against Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State). Hopefully Keion Brooks Jr. who was called day-to-day by coach Hopkins will return to action.