As the crowd roared, Duane Washington Jr. did his best Russell Crowe impersonation.

The first half of a game Monday against Kent State at St. John Arena had just ended, and somehow Washington had thrown up an acrobatic scoop shot as time expired that banked off the glass and through as his momentum carried him to the left corner of the court. There, he threw his arms into the air like Crowe in the movie “Gladiator,” smiling and soaking in the moment as his teammates mobbed him.

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By the time Washington was in the locker room, the shot had been waved off after a video review. It didn't matter. Washington finished with a season-high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting while setting career highs with seven rebounds and 32:15 of playing time.

It marked the latest parcel in a growing pile of evidence that the sophomore guard is taking to heart some lessons the coaching staff has been preaching to him since his freshman season. For one, that efficiency is to be prized over volume.

“Being more selective in the shots I'm taking has been a huge part of me shooting better,” Washington said after the game. “Just letting the game come to me and not (always worrying about) controlling the game.”

Six games into the season, Washington enters a game Friday against Morgan State third on the team in scoring average (10.3), third in shooting percentage among players with at least 20 attempts (55.0 percent) and tops in three-point shooting at 59.1 percent.

Washington stepped into the starting lineup when senior Andre Wesson suffered a broken right eye socket in the opening game against Cincinnati.

Since then, Washington has remained a starter even as Wesson has returned. As the Golden Flashes put together a second-half rally against the Buckeyes, Holtmann said Washington was among the players who remained upbeat and vocal during timeouts.

In a blowout win against Purdue Fort Wayne on Nov. 22, Washington had a career-high five assists and scored eight points on five shots despite having fought a flu-like illness in the days before the game.

“I think consistent minutes has calmed Duane down when it comes to his thirst coming into the game, wanting points,” Holtmann said after the Kent State game. “That comes with a little maturity. His ability to drive the ball tonight, get to the rim was critical for us.”

As big a sign as any of Washington's growth came when he was asked if he was aware that he was shooting nearly 60% from three-point range.

“No, I just shoot the ball with confidence,” he said.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy