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Recap: Washington show signs of life in tough loss to Arizona

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The Huskies started strong but ran out of gas as the #7 Wildcats roll.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Huskies are suffering through one of their most disappointing and frustrating seasons in Lorenzo Romar era. For a short period of time on Sunday afternoon, those bitter feelings gave way to unfettered exhilaration. Nevertheless, a lost season remained unredeemable as UW gave up a nine point first-half lead to fall to the #7 Arizona Wildcats 77-66.

The Wildcats came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the nation having won 13 straight games and boasting a #7 ranking overall. But in the early moments, it was Washington that looked like the upstart team. It was the much maligned UW defense that triggered the UW surge. Strong positioning and active perimeter defense forced Arizona into 9 turnovers, 2/10 3 pt shooting and 18-19 rebounding deficit. Noah Dickerson was particularly effective doing the “dirty work” pulling down 6 first half rebounds including 3 of the offensive variety.

Nevertheless, the Huskies surrendered a 14-7 Arizona run to end a first half that led to UW holding just a two point advantage 33-31 heading into the second half. The Wildcats continued that momentum with an 11-2 run to open up the final frame and never really looked back.

Attrition was a major storyline for UW as the Wildcats wrestled the game away in the second half. Foul trouble for both Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle exposed UW’s lack of overall depth. The Wildcats leveraged that lack of depth by patiently working their offense in the paint and then by counterpunching with a barrage of three pointers that, unlike the first half, started falling in. The Wildcats nailed 6 of 11 second half threes to put this game away.

For UW fans who were hoping that a road upset over a top 10 team might propel them back into the NCAA bubble conversation, this loss puts an end to that speculation. The 2003 UW team, sparked by a remarkable game from Nate Robinson in an overtime win over OSU after an 0-5 start, was a template that some UW fans were pointing to. However, the Dawgs are now 2-7 in the PAC and 9-12 overall. There just are not enough games left on the schedule (nine) despite three still remaining against top 10 teams UCLA and Arizona.

Husky fans will nonetheless take note of how tough the Dawgs played all game. Whether it was pressing the offensive board, jumping out on perimeter D or fighting through Arizona screens, there was a lot of fight coming from UW today. This was, after all, still a seven point game at the two minute mark. It just wasn’t enough against the better and deeper team.

Dots

  • There haven’t been too many great moments of basketball this season, the exploits of star Markelle Fultz aside. Hard to argue with this point by Christian Caple:
  • Sam Timmins was a factor in the early going racking up seven first half points and boasting a +/- of 5 in the frame. Seven points represented a career high for the young big man. He finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block and 2 steals in what might be one of the best box scores by any Husky player not named Markelle Fultz all season.
  • Fultz was not himself on a day where his normal output could have made a difference. The Husky star finished 8/23 from the floor with no free throws (0/4) and no three pointers (0/4). He did finish with nine rebounds and three steals.
  • SF Noah Dickerson had one of his better games of the season. In addition to the rebounding noted above, he was very efficient offensively around the rim. He finished with 9 rebounds and 10 points on 5/6 shooting before fouling out midway through the second half.
  • Getting shots at the rim continue to be a challenges for the Huskies. Granted, nothing comes easy against a big Wildcat team. Still, UW took just six of their 37 first half shots (and 14 of 69 overall) near the goal. Their inability to penetrate resulted in zero first half free throws and just 17 (to Arizona’s 30) for the game overall.
  • Former UW star and current Phoenix Sun power forward Marquesse Chriss was on hand at the game sitting behind the Husky bench and, I’m sure, wishing he could jump onto the court and help out his struggling former teammates.
  • God bless Carlos Johnson. The 235 lb Husky forward definitely has the strength and the mental attitude to play in the post. But his 6’3” height is severe limiter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can develop some moves around the rim and a mid-range game as he tries to compensate for that challenge.
  • The starters for UW today were a familiar crew: