Even Career Game by Hameir Wright Can't Prevent UW Milestone Loss

The Husky senior forward had his best scoring outing with his college time dwindling down.
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The University of Washington basketball team closed out the regular season on Saturday in the Arizona desert the way it started three months earlier in the Nevada desert. 

Dehydrated. 

Fatigued.

With a loss.

A milestone 20th setback.

Yet there was wrinkle to this outcome.

The Huskies did everything they could in Tucson on Saturday afternoon except win, losing to Arizona 75-74 on freshman Azulas Tubelis' corner jumper with 5.2 seconds remaining. Quade Green's 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short.

Giving his UW team a huge boost, Hameir Wright was an unlikely hero, the 6-foot-9 senior supplying a career-best 18 points as his college career winds down.

It still wasn't quite enough.

Mike Hopkins' team (5-20 overall, 4-16 Pac-12) became the fifth team in UW history to suffer 20 losses, joining three Bob Bender entries (1994, 2000, 2001) and Lorenzo Romar's final club (2017).

It was unavoidable, though the Huskies, who played eight games in 17 days to make up pandemic-postponed outings, nearly prolonged the misery for another week.

"At this point in the season, you can give up or fight," Wright said. "We chose to fight."

This setback came against a freshman-laden Arizona team (17-8, 11-8) that will finish its season on Monday at Oregon. Accused of program improprieties, the Wildcats have instituted a self-imposed ban on postseason play that will keep them out of the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments. 

Meantime, the UW, the league's 11th-place team, will take 11 days off before entering the league tournament in Las Vegas.

While hurt badly inside once more, the frontline-challenged Huskies kept pace with their taller and more physical hosts with a gritty performance. They never trailed by more than 6 in the opening half and were down just 33-29 at intermission. They rallied from 10 down in the second half.

"They made a play, we didn't," Hopkins said. "It's unfortunate. It's hard. It's a hard season not having the success we wanted."

Most of all, they struggled to keep Tubelis, a 6-foot-11 freshman, away from the ball and the basket as he easily reached over the smaller UW players to score and grab rebounds. The hulking Lithuanian finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds. As the final shot demonstrated, he hurt them inside and out.

Arizona's front-line advantage was distinct, with the Huskies' 6-foot-11 Nate Roberts and Wright fouling out inside the final 4:32. The Wildcats held a hefty 41-29 rebound advantage, with Benedict Mathurin also supplying 13 boards. 

Guard James Akinjo, the Georgetown transfer, topped all scorers with 26 points and chipped in 7 assists. 

To open the second half, Arizona kept the pressure on up front with 7-foot-1 sophomore Christian Koloko, using him in concert with Tubelis. The Cameroon native scored 5 unanswered points of his 11 in the game during this time. 

Koloko took a pass over the top from Tubelis, dropped in the shot while fouled by Roberts and converted the free throw for a 41-37 advantage. The next time down the floor the African player dunked hard on the Huskies and the game began to get out of control for the first time.

A minute later, Koloko bounced a no-look pass to Tubelis, who dunked for a 47-40 lead. The next time down the floor, the big man ferociously swatted a Marcus Tsohonis shot out of bounds.

Yet Wright kept the Huskies in it by sinking 4 3-pointers in the second half, 5 for 7 in the game. He was a 24-percent shooter behind the arc coming in. He looked like a different player.

"I thought he was who he can be," Hopkins said. "I just wish we could have given him a win."

Playing catch-up, the UW tied the game at 61 on Jamal Bey's 3-point play, a put-back and free throw. The teams hadn't been deadlocked since 35-all. 

Arizona responded immediately with a pair of Akinjo 3-pointers and put the Huskies back at arms-length.

"It was one of the most connected we've been all year," Wright said. "We were just having fun."

Hopkins' team, which provided five double-figure scorers for the first time this season, had an excellent chance to win at McKale Center, but frittered it away.

The Huskies held a 74-73 lead and the ball with 18 seconds to go when Green, who finished with 17 points, drove the lane. He stuck an elbow into the chest of Arizona's Kerr Kriise and was called for an offensive foul. 

"You put the ball in the hands of your playmaker," Hopkins said. "I thought he was going to step back and shoot his patented shot. He must have seen something. "Yeah, tough play."

That mistake gave the Wildcats all the room they needed to set up Tubelis' game-winner.

And, close call or not, the Huskies were left with 20 losses. 

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

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