Bottoms Up: Huskies Win, Keep Cal in the Pac-12 Cellar

The 11th-place UW won for the second time in three outings during the week.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

On the first offensive possession of the University of Washington-California basketball game, the ball swung to the Huskies' Travis Rice, who in one motion caught and launched it from 3-point range. 

Swish.

Yet Rice was on the floor for just 58 seconds before he was pulled, seemingly done for the night.

In a season where rewards have been fleeting and few, the Huskies won to avoid dropping into the Pac-12 cellar, keeping the Bears there with a 62-51 decision on Saturday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Rice?

He was just a small part of it, but the 6-foot-2 senior helped set a positive tone for the Huskies (5-17 overall, 4-13 Pac-12) with his early rain-maker.

In just his 14th collegiate game, Rice made his first and only career start on Senior Night, honored for his service as a dutiful practice player. He's the son of UW assistant coach Dave Rice and played alongside Husky guard Jamal Bey in high school in Las Vegas.

"I was excited for him," fellow senior guard Quade Green said of the pre-planned play for Rice. "We gave him his moment. He did it, too. It came down to that shot and he was successful."

Travis Rice has a senior moment for the Huskies.

Travis Rice, a little-used sub, got the start and hit a 3-pointer to open the game.

In a game befitting of the Pac-12's two worst teams, the play was labored and the scoring was limited. Shots clanked off with regularity for both teams. There were no double-figure scorers for either side until midway though the second half.

Green, playing in possibly his last UW home game, led the UW with 17 points, hitting 6 of 11 shots,  and Bey chipped in 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in a well-rounded effort.

"I got a win in my last game here," Green said. "We got a last win in this uniform."

Asked if he would consider coming back for yet another season, since he has that option because of the pandemic, he was non-commital.

"I'll worry about that Tuesday," Green said. "That time will come."

The Huskies trailed only in the opening moments of the opening half, led by 10 and pushed out to a 30-23 advantage over the Bears (8-17, 3-15) at halftime. True to form, the home team had no offensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes.  

Providing a early UW spark was 6-7 sophomore Cole Bajema, the Michigan transfer, who dropped in a 3-pointer but more importantly he drove hard to the basket under heavy guard and scored for the first time this season.

What would be key to this match-up was how the Huskies responded after intermission. Typically, they haven't come out of the break with much to offer the opposition.

Not this night.

Early in the second half, the UW went on a 12-5 binge, capped by a Marcus Tsohonis 3-pointer to move in front 42-28. Tsohonis finished with 10 points for the night.

"I just tried to keep energy in the game," UW coach Mike Hopkins said. "These guys have played a lot of games back to back."

This marked the Huskies third game in six days. They'll play three in five days next week in Arizona.

Cal, which shot 27.1 percent from the field and 18.8 from 3-point range, battled back to close within 45-42, but Bey and Green carried the Huskies down the stretch, keeping them ahead and safely in 11th place. 

The two guards combined to score all of their team's 14 points over an eight-minute spell coming down the stretch, putting the UW out front 59-50.

With 36.1 seconds remaining, Rice was summoned once more. He launched another 3-pointer, only to have it swatted into his face. So he was 1-for-2. Again, small victories.

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven

Find Husky Maven on Facebook by searching: HuskyMaven/Sports Illustrated