An old enemy of the Huskies, free throws, were the final end to the Huskies’ comeback attempt as they fell to the California Bears, 78-75, on Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Dawgs dropped their fourth in a row while Cal won their fourth straight and their first conference road game in over a year.
Matisse Thybulle was fouled by Jabari Bird with 3.3 seconds left in the game with the Huskies down 77-75. The play in which Thybulle was fouled seemed like two players fighting for the rebound. Thankfully, the Pac-12 refs handed the Dawgs the opportunity to tie the game. Unfortunately, Thybulle, who scored 6 points, going 6-for-6 at the free throw line up until that point, missed the first free throw. Since he missed the first, he attempted to miss the second and the scramble did not go the Huskies' way.
In addition to the missed free throws, defense and lack of shooting were once again the downfall for the Dawgs as they dropped this very important game to the Bears.
The Huskies tried a new lineup for the first time this season as Malik Dime replaced Noah Dickerson in the starting five. The change seemed to work as Dime scored the first 6 points for the Dawgs and even hit a long jumper. He also had two early blocks.
Despite the strong start by Dime, the Huskies found themselves behind for most of the first half. They kept it close, but could never surge ahead. On key offensive possessions when they could either tie or go ahead, the Dawgs could not convert. Among the examples: a quick shot early in the shot clock by Dominic Green under tight defense, a David Crisp airball layup, a Dejounte Murray turnover, and a Marquese Chriss charging call.
The Huskies pulled ahead late in the first half with a Donaven Dorsey 3. Cal came back and the teams were tied at 34 at the half.
In the second half, Chriss, who only had one foul in the first half, drew two fouls in the first minute - sending him to the bench. This did not help as the Huskies found a lid on the basket most of the second half. Midway through the second half the Huskies were stuck on 49 for over four minutes.
On the other end, the UW defense fell apart. Jaylen Brown had two huge dunks unopposed in the lane. Brown led Cal, scoring 14 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. Defensive rebounding was once again an issue as the Huskies had trouble with Cal’s big men, including Ivan Rabb who grabbed 14 rebounds.
From the under 8-minute point in the second half until about the 2-minute mark, Cal held the Dawgs at arm’s length. The Bears scored on offense and the Huskies did not. And when the Dawgs did score, the Bears immediately answered.
As seems to be a new custom, the Dawgs made a frenetic surge to come back in the last minutes. Andrew Andrews made two desperation threes to bring the Huskies back. But Cal, the worst free-throw shooting team in the league, made just enough to stay up on the Huskies.
Despite the Thybulle misses at the end, the Huskies had great opportunities throughout the game but just could not cash them in.
It took a little longer for the tailspin this year, but it’s here. Unfortunately, this young team looks out of gas. The team is full of contradictions. It scores the most points in the conference but has the worst time scoring when it needs a basket. The Huskies lead the nation in blocks and are near the top in steals, yet their defense allows more uncontested layups and dunks than an NBA All-Star Game.
Will they be able to turn it around in time? The Huskies fall to 15-11 overall and 7-7 in conference.
On to the dots…
To make Husky fans feel worse about this loss, it was the first road win in conference for the Bears in over a year. Cal had not won a road game since a win against Wyoming on December 5th. Cal and UW are two passing teams in the standings. Cal has won 4 in a row and is tourney-bound, while the Huskies have dropped 4 and are sliding off the bubble even more.
Here are the ugly numbers: UW was 23-70 from the field, which is 32.9% for the game. They average 42% from the field. They were 25-38 from the free throw line, making them 65.8% for the game. The Huskies' season average from the free throw line is 72%. The Dawgs were outrebounded 55-44.
The good numbers: the Huskies only committed 7 turnovers to the Bears' 16. Yet, it seemed like they could not capitalize on the TOs when forced.
Murray was 4-10 from the free throw line. This must improve, since he is almost always fouled driving to the basket.
Despite a slow start Andrews led the Dawgs with 18 points. He left for a brief moment after running hard into a Cal player in the second half, but came back in the game to hit the two miraculous threes.
Noah Dickerson had a put back dunk off a Murray miss. It had to have been the first time he's dunked this season.
It was Blackout Night at the UW-Cal game. Let's hope the Huskies' tourney hopes don't fade to black in the next week.