UW Basketball Team Returns to Losing Ways, Falls to WSU
For a week, the Washington basketball team had everyone fooled.
After ending their nine-game losing streak, the Huskies had a lot of people thinking just maybe it was all a bad dream, that these guys had suffered through enough for the time being.
On Friday night, however, the UW looked every bit the Pac-12's last-place team again, stumbling to rival Washington State 78-74 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Finding more ways to lose in a season that continues to play out badly, the Huskies (13-16 overall, 3-13 league) fell way behind in each half, battled back to take a tying shot with 5.6 seconds left and missed.
If anything, junior forward Naz Carter was surprisingly defiant later while meeting with reporters. He scolded one for asking Jaden McDaniels if this was the freshman's final Husky home game. He didn't take it well either when another quizzed him about the team's level of disappointment.
"We're not feeling any disappointment," the agitated Carter said. "We're just getting ready for the tournament, sir."
It should be pointed out that Huskies first have road games at Arizona and Arizona State next week before the Pac-12 postseason event unfolds in Las Vegas the following week. Somebody remind these guys.
The Huskies tried to isolate Carter for the final shot in regulation, but he got off balance once in the key and he wasn't close with his attempt, enabling the Cougars (15-14, 6-10) to complete a season sweep.
"I got to the basket and I think I might have got hit," he said. "They didn't call it. I missed it, and that was it."
Thus concluded an aggravating evening for the Huskies, who had the added indignity of having two Seattle-area players take on major roles in sending them to defeat.
C.J. Elleby, from Cleveland High just 10 miles away, came up with another stat line that showed why he's one of the league's foremost players: the 6-foot-6 sophomore collected a game-high 21 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists.
Noah Williams, a 6-5 freshman from O'Dea High that's even closer to the UW, had 12 of his 14 points in the opening half, helping ease the Cougars out to a 41-28 lead.
The guys in the crimson jerseys were confident and creative, everything the Huskies seem to be lacking. They were joined by Portland's Isaac Bonton, a junior guard who backed them with 19 points.
Nearly 30 games into a disastrous season, Mike Hopkins' players continue to flounder, especially offensively. He has no leader. He has no one to get the ball to onetime freshman sensation Isaiah Stewart, who took just seven shots and has become an afterthought. He has no 3-point shooters (3-for-16).
"I know we're good, I know we are," Hopkins said, not sounding all that convincing. anymore. "Can we get them to play a little more consistent?"
Disciplined might be a much more appropriate approach. Mature would work, too.
Leading 51-50, the Huskies had yet another player whistled for a technical foul at a crucial time for a dumb move. No, it wasn't McDaniels, who led them with 19 points but had 6 turnovers.
This time, it was sophomore guard Jamal Bey who swatted away a Bonton shot, got in his face, taunted him and drew the T. Once again, it proved costly.
The Cougars converted this misstep into a five-point play, cashing in on Bonton's two free throws and an inbounds 3-pointer by Elleby, good for a 55-51 lead they never relinquished.
"In a game like this, you can't make those kind of plays," said Hopkins, who hasn't found a way to prevent them.
The Huskies at least didn't roll over. Trailing 66-53 with just under seven minutes to go, they kept chipping away until pulling within 75-74 on Carter's layin with 23.6 seconds remaining.
WSU's Bonton was fouled and converted one of two free throws with 18.8 seconds on the clock. That set the stage to see whether the Huskies had any heroics in them.
They did not.
"We're taking baby steps," Hopkins said. "We're not taking the ones to make us better."