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Huskies Lose Both Big Men, Rally from 18 Down Only to Fall to OSU

The UW made a valiant effort in the face of all kinds of hardship, but couldn't pull out the game at the end.
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Before playing Oregon State, the University of Washington basketball team lost its 7-foot-1 starting center Braxton Meah in practice to an ankle injury.

In the second half at Gill Coliseum, the Huskies lost the services of 6-foot-11 Franck Kepnang when he crashed to the floor with a knee injury, stayed down for a long time and had to be helped to the locker room.

Yet on Thursday night, this shorthanded and suddenly much smaller UW team gamely did everything it could to win this game, roaring back from an 18-point deficit to lead by three in the closing seconds — except pull it out.

Ah, that was asking just a little too much.

The Huskies gave up a three-point play to Oregon State's Dexter Akanno on a lay-in and a foul shot with 8.2 seconds remaining, had Keion Brooks' shot at the buzzer bounce off and lost their Pac-12 opener 66-65 and had a three-game win streak halted.

For those who witnessed this schizphrenic game, you can now wipe the sweat off your brow and uncover your eyes.

In a worst-case scenario, the UW (6-2 overall, 0-1 Pac-12) found itself playing without three of its four transfer portal additions, with former Washington State guard Noah Williams already out with a knee injury for an undetermined time and now joined by Meah and Kepnang.

That was 168 inches of inside brawn suddenly stripped away from Mike Hopkins' team.

With Kepnang being attended to away from the action, Meah sat on the bench next to 6-foot-10 sophomore Jackson Grant, who likewise was in street clothes but is redshirting. At least for now. Meah's injury doesn't seem bad. However, Kepnang's does.

Considering this massive shortage of manpower, the Huskies suffered through their worst stretch of basketball this season when they were unable to shoot, rebound or do much of anything right for the longest time in the opening half — and this was before Kepnang got hurt.

The Beavers (4-4 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) took full advantage of the UW's prolonged inept play and went on a commanding 21-0 run to lead by as many as 18, at 27-9.

OSU's Dzmitry Ryuny set up in the left corner and couldn't miss during this time, with the 6-foot-9 senior forward from Minsk, Belarus draining three high-arching 3-pointers in the first half. Ryuny provided a team-high 14 points, plus 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists.

Yet the Huskies (6-2, 0-1) still made a game out of it. After his team went scoreless for seven and a half minutes, Brooks stopped the misery by soaring in for a fast-break dunk, slamming it through off a pass from PJ Fuller at the 6:51 mark of the half. He dunked the next time down the floor, too, with even more of a wind-up, after taking a feed from freshman guard Keyon Menifield and it was 27-14. 

Brooks, the 6-foot-7 Kentucky transfer, led the Huskies with 21 points and 7 rebounds.

After trailing 38-26 going into intermission, the Huskies kept the pressure on and even narrowed the deficit to just three in the second half, at 44-41 and 45-42, before disaster happened.

With 11:36 left in the game, Kepnang went down on the baseline and stayed there for several minutes as the gym turned quiet. The UW trailed just 48-42 but its momentum was blunted, at least temporarily. 

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The Huskies now had only the little-used 6-foot-9 Langston Wilson available to battle inside. 

Instead, they turned to their other freshman guard, Koren Johnson, to make a valiant final run. The UW just wouldn't go away, even when some of their best players did.

Johnson, who finished with 11 points in 22 minutes, hit a a 3-pointer to pull the Huskies within 61-57 and then fed Cole Bajema, who had 12 points, for another trey to make it 61-60 with 2:49 on the clock.

This first-year player from Seattle's Garfield High looked like for all the world that he might be the hero of the crazy evening when he stole the ball and laid it in for the Huskies' first lead since early in the game, at 62-61.

Things looked even better when UW senior guard Jamal Bey scored his first basket of the game on a driving lay-in to give his team a 64-61 lead with 40 seconds remaining, capping a 15-2 run.

Eighteen seconds were showing when Oregon State freshman guard Jordan Pope sank a pair of free throws, but the Huskies still led 64-63.

with 14.4 seconds to go, the UW's Brooks converted just the first of two free throws, leaving an opening for the Beavers to survive this test. 

They took it.

At the 8.2-second mark, Akanno, a 6-foot-5 junior guard from Valencia, California, scored on a lay-in, was fouled by Bajema and coolly put his team back on top by sinking the free throw. 

Brooks' jumper from the top of the key harmlessly bounced off as the final horn sounded.

The Huskies now have two days to figure out what to do with their inside game before next hosting Colorado at home on Sunday with a noon tipoff.


 

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