Huskies Hammer Cal to Stop Losing Streak, Hopkins Lets Emotions Pour Out
The Washington basketball team has a pulse. It's off the respirator. It's going to be OK.
After 37 days of blown leads, missed shots and nothing but losses, the Huskies felt good about themselves again, punishing California 87-52 on Saturday afternoon at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Players didn't carry coach Mike Hopkins off the court; they simply let the weight of major disappointment fall off their shoulders.
The UW losing streak ended at nine, four shy of the school record for consecutive defeats. Someone else will have to suffer the indignity of exceeding that embarrassment.
The Huskies (13-15 overall, 3-12 Pac-12) could have clinched last place in the conference. That likely still will happen, just not this weekend.
Sophomore point guard Quade Green didn't suddenly reclaim his basketball eligibility either.
No, these were the same guys who dropped 11 out of their first 12 games without their academically deficient playmaker.
With the gym two-thirds full, they hung together with what they had and crushed a Cal team (11-16, 5-9) coached by former Huskies assistant Mark Fox.
The losing was burdensome for all involved, especially Hopkins. Afterward, the third-year coach had tears in his eyes as he thanked the fans for hanging with the team through the extended downturn (see the video clip).
"It shows you what this place can be and is going to be," he said, letting out a roar and jokingly knocking over a microphone as he exited the room.
Fourteen and a half minutes into a close contest, a five-point play turned everything into a mismatch (see box score).
Ahead just 21-20, the Huskies' Hameir Wright, who missed the previous game with a migraine, sank a 3-pointer and gave Cal a headache that wouldn't go away. Freshman big man Isaiah Stewart got shoved in the key by the Bears' D.J. Thorpe with the ball in flight, a flagrant foul was called and the UW big man made a pair of free throws.
"Honest, I don't know (what happened)," Stewart said. "I was just playing hard and he hit me. The refs reviewed it to make sure it wasn't a dirty play, and I guess it was."
This sent the UW on a 22-6 run to close out the half and into a commanding 43-26 advantage.
There was no way the Huskies were going to blow it.
Freshman Marcus Tsohonis made sure by draining three consecutive 3-pointers to open the second half and the lead kept growing even after the teams began substituting liberally.
Junior Naz Carter led all scorers with 16 points, hitting the first shot of the game 18 seconds into it for the notoriously slow-starting Huskies. He scored seven of his team's first nine points.
"My teammates were finding me in great spots to shoot my best shots," Carter said.
Hopkins drew a technical just a minute and 35 seconds into the contest, one of four whistled on the two teams. Fox, who was an assistant for Lynn Nance in 1990-93, got one, too. So did Huskies freshman Jaden McDaniels, who collected his sixth of the season.
"He gave me a technical for being out of the box," Hopkins said. "I was talking to him outside of the box. He later was very respectful and I apologized to him. It was a hard game to officiate. It was pardon my French."
Stewart chipped in 15 points and 8 rebounds, while McDaniels came off the bench for 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and Tsohonis finished with 11 points.
Sam Timmons, the Huskies' lone senior and 6-foot-11 New Zealander, added 9 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks, and drew a huge reaction when he drained a 3-pointer rare for him near the end.
The Huskies have six days to let a win soak in before they face Washington State next Friday night at home. One message they relayed was nothing is settled.
"We not trying to look ahead or behind," Stewart said. "We're happy we got one win and got it started. We're just trying to keep it going."