The few, the proud
Washington hits buzzer-beater to lift short-handed Flames
By Mike Pankow
December 29, 2018
The 6-foot-9 freshman forward from San Bernadino, Calif., hit a 3-pointer from the corner at the overtime buzzer as UIC upended defending Horizon League tournament champion Wright State 75-72 at the Nutter Center in Fairborn, Ohio.
The rangy Washington finished the night with a career-high 13 points and four 3-pointers off the bench as the Flames (7-7, 1-0) stunned the Raiders (6-8, 0-1) in the conference opener for both teams.
The narrative of this game was deeper than just the game-winning shot. UIC overcame tremendous adversity as they ended the game with just six active players after three players were ejected, another was recovering from an illness and yet another fouled out in overtime.
During a minor scuffle between the Flames' Jordan Blount and Raiders big man Loudon Love in the second half, Godwin Boahen, Jacob Wiley and Ralph Bissainthe left the bench area and, upon further review, were thrown out of the game per NCAA rules. Junior forward Rob Howard was on the bench but missed his second straight game while continuing to recover from the flu. Blount fouled out in overtime, opening the door for Washington to re-enter the game.
By the final buzzer, UIC had just newcomers Washington and Jamie Ahale, along with Tarkus Ferguson, Marcus Ottey and Michael Diggins, on the court and only Dominique Matthews available on the bench.
"With new guys it takes them a little while," UIC coach Steve McClain said. "Travell and Jamie are two guys who work as hard as anybody. I've remained positive with them. Their teammates have been on them that they've got to shoot when you're open, you've got to make hustle plays. I thought those guys stepped up and made really big plays tonight."
It was a battle befitting two of the top three squads in the Horizon League with neither team leading by more than seven points, physical play and clutch shots, although it wasn't always pretty.
After Wright State's Cole Gentry, a product of West suburban St. Charles, drilled a 3-pointer from NBA range to tie the game at 72-72 with just under 8 seconds left in the extra session, the Raiders called timeout to set up their defense.
After the stoppage, Ferguson brought the ball up court where he was met by a double team at the top of the key. With time winding down, he delivered the ball to Washington, who stepped back into the right corner. Washington took the pass and didn't hesitate, knocking down the buzzer-beater past the outstretched hand of Parker Ernsthausen, who closed late. What was left of the Flames bench erupted in celebration.
With UIC leading 45-41, the seminal moment of the second half occurred with 11:23 remaining when Love fell into Blount while the two were contesting for a rebound. The two ended up on the floor and Blount's legs got caught up with Love's. As Blount extricated himself and turned away, Love confronted Blount and pointed in his face.
Officials quickly stepped in to help avoid escalation of the situation, but not before Boahen, Wiley, Bissainthe ran from the bench area to midcourt. Officials ended up giving technical fouls to Love and Blount while ejecting the Flames' trio for leaving the bench area.
With the Flames reeling a bit from the situation, the Raiders rallied to take the lead. Ernsthausen hit a pair of free throws to extend Wright State's lead to 57-52 with 2:28 left in regulation.
Ottey connected on a 3-pointer off a nice feed from Ferguson to tie the game at 57-57 with 1:46 remaining. Gentry answered with a nifty, 10-foot turnaround jumper in the lane for a 59-57 Raiders edge with 1:13 to play.
Ferguson knocked down an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key to tie it again at 59-59 with 54 seconds left. Ernsthausen missed a layup at the other end, setting up a final shot for UIC.
However, the Flames turned it over when sophomore guard Ahale mishandled a pass from Ferguson with 1.9 seconds left. Wright State got a decent look from Mark Hughes at the buzzer, but Diggins swatted it away to force overtime.
In the extra period, neither team led by more than three points. With a chance for some cushion, Ottey made a pair of key free throws with 17 seconds left for a three-point lead before Gentry drilled his lonng triple to set up Washington's heroics.
Ottey helped keep the Flames close all night, scoring 23 points, doing more perimeter damage than usual in hitting three 3-pointers, and grabbing eight rebounds. Ferguson scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out six assists, including the winner to Washington.
"I thought Tark made a couple of unbelievable passes (late)," McClain said. "Marcus couldn't get anything going toward the rim, but he shot the ball (from the perimeter) with confidence. I thought Jordan played as solid game as he has. He was good on the defensive end. It was a great team win. Everybody that got in the game contributed."
In addition to Gentry's strong game, the Raiders got support from Hughes and Alan Vest, who scored 11 points each. Love, an all-Horizon League performer who was slowed by an ankle injury, struggled his way to nine points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late in regulation.
With Love limited to 17 minutes, Wright State relied heavily on its perimeter game, making 11 of 40 3-point attempts while shooting just 32.1 percent from the field.
"The real miracle is we go 11 of 40 from three and managed to get it to overtime and lose in a last second shot," Wright State coach Scott Nagy said. "It shows how hard the guys are playing. I am sure I have never had a team shoot 40 threes ever, but they were good shots."
Wright State led 15-8 in the first half before the Flames finally got some things going. UIC answered with a 12-2 run that included seven points from Washington, who had started the Flames' first 13 games this season.
Boahen scored a fastbreak layup un the final minute of the first half to help the Flames grab a 27-24 lead at the half.
"We never let the adversity set us back," McClain said. "There were a couple times they got up three or four and we came right back and answered their runs. We never let them get on an eight- or a nine-point run. It just came down to our guys had great will tonight."
FLAMES FLICKERS: Washington's decisive shot was the Flames' first buzzer-beating game-winner since Robo Kreps hit a mid-range jumper to beat Green Bay in overtime during the 2010-11 season at then-UIC Pavilion. ... The Flames have won eight straight on the road in Horizon League play, defeating every HL club except Northern Kentucky, whom they play Sunday. ... UIC snapped an 11-year streak of losing their first conference road game. The Flames last pulled off a win in their first road Horizon League game during the 2006-07 season when they beat Cleveland State 72-62 on Dec. 27, 2006. ... Washington's 22 minutes off the bench were a career high. Ahale played a career-best 24 minutes. ... Before his ejection, Boahen made one 3-pointer, marking the 32nd straight game he has converted at least one. ... The Flames were 13-for-30 from 3-point range (43.3 percent) and have hit double-digit 3s in nine of their 14 games. ... In addition to the shortage in personnel, UIC committed 17 turnovers and were outrebounded 48-42 in the victory. ... UIC improved to 2-1 this season in overtime and snapped a seven-game road losing streak that dated back to last season's CIT Championship game loss at Northern Colorado.
POSTGAME VIDEOS (courtesy UIC Flames on YouTube):