Getting warmerWashington shakes off the ice in the second half to defeat Fairfield
As Washington’s tallest player, senior Justin Hoffman has spent more time in the post this season than outside the 3-point arc. But Hoffman, a 6-foot-3 forward, drained a pair of key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against Fairfield to help the Demons rally for a 42-35 win.
“Hoffy has that range,” Washington head coach Bryce Smeins said of Hoffman, who had made four of his 12 3-pointers in the Demons’ first 12 games of the season. “”He hit a couple of shots and we were back in the game.”
Washington (4-9, 1-4 Southeast Conference) trailed 25-22 heading into the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, but Hoffman nailed an open 3-pointer to tie the score. Hoffman found teammate Gage Redlinger cutting down the lane for a left-handed layup to give the Demons their first lead since early in the third quarter, but Fairfield’s Kyle Weirup and Spencer Peterman answered with baskets to put the Trojans back in front.
But Hoffman sank another open 3-pointer with 4:27 remaining to give the Demons the lead for good.
“We’ve been shooting a lot of threes in practice lately,” said Hoffman, who scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter. “I had an open shot, so I took it. And when you get an open shot, you’ve just got to make it.”
Washington then went 12-for-16 from the free-throw line in the game’s final four minutes to hold off the Trojans (3-11, 1-4 SEC).
“We didn’t have enough left in the tank to close as strong as we could defensively,” said Fairfield head coach Tyler Miklo, whose team was playing its fourth game in five days. “We didn’t execute. We got good looks and got inside, but missed some short shots and didn’t make free throws down the stretch. Those things combined, you’re not going to win a rivalry game.”
Although Hoffman and the Demons hit some shots in the second half, both teams struggled to score in the first half. Fairfield didn’t hit its first shot from the field until midway through the second quarter, when junior Landon Gamrath’s turnaround jumper from the baseline pulled the Trojans to within 11-8. The Demons didn’t score for the final five minutes of the first half, and Fairfield led 16-11 at the intermission.
“I thought we just had a great effort on some tired legs to just get out and guard when our shots weren’t falling,” Miklo said of his Trojans holding Washington to 11 points in the first half. “We were making some mistakes offensively, but we really dug in defensively.”
And even though the Demons had scored just 11 points on 4-for-21 shooting in the first half, Smeins was pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
“Actually, I wasn’t too upset with how they played,” he said. “If you can hold a team to 16 points defensively in the first half, that’s pretty good. We were 2-for-9 from the free-throw line in the first half and didn’t hit any shots. I was hoping our offense would get better, and it definitely got better in the second half.”
Washington senior Kyle Roder hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half and give the Demons a 17-16 lead. But Fairfield senior Darrin Dimmitt answered with a 3-pointer as the Trojans regained the lead until Hoffman’s 3-pointer tied the game early in the fourth quarter.
“I knew he was capable of shooting them, but we’d rather have him out there than taking it at us in the paint,” Miklo said of Hoffman. “We’ve just got to do a better job of closing out. We want to contest every shot. That’s a mistake on our part for not getting guys to get a hand up.”
Peterman’s double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds led the Trojans. Junior Vincent Horras added 14 rebounds.
Roder hit three 3-pointers and scored a game-high 15 points to lead the Demons. He also had six rebounds and three steals in the contest. Hoffman added nine points and six rebounds, and junior Alex Coker had eight points to go with 10 rebounds.
Thanks to some timely shots, the Demons won back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“Our shots finally started to fall,” Hoffman said. “They haven’t been all season, so it was nice.”