Last week, Washington suffered a disheartening loss to UCLA and quickly bounced back with a big win over USC to redeem themselves. This week, the Huskies started their road trip with a loss to Stanford, but couldn’t find redemption in Berkley. UW played a miserable 30 minutes on the offensive end to fall behind by 10. They turned the game around in the closing minutes of regulation to send it to overtime, only to fall to some clutch shot-making by Cal’s less heralded backcourt.
The Dawgs made a change to their starting lineup with Jamal Bey in place of Elijah Hardy, who started against Stanford after Quade Green was ruled ineligible. The Huskies went to Isaiah Stewart on the first three possessions, but didn’t get on the board until Jaden McDaniels made a very difficult step-back three. Naz Carter added a three and Matt Bradley answered with one from NBA range for the Bears. Cal continued to grind out baskets while the Dawgs struggled through several disjointed possessions. Before long, it was a 9-0 run and a five point Cal lead. Mike Hopkins went to the bench quickly and was rewarded with threes for both Marcus Tsohonis and RaeQuan Battle.
At the midpoint of the first half, the Huskies were shooting 25%, but only trailing by three. The three point line was key because the Dawgs missed their first ten shots from inside the arc. Hopkins continued to tinker with his lineups, including a gigantic squad of Bey, Carter, Hameir Wright, Nate Robets, and Stewart. Stewart finally beat a double team to make a bank shot and bring the Huskies with 19-17. Grant Anticevich, who had been struggling inside against UW’s size, made a contested three that pushed Cal’s lead to six. Stewart got deep position and finished another easy one and followed it with a steal. The Dawgs had a chance to get some momentum, but Carter missed open threes on consecutive trips and Anticevich made another tough jumper. Paris Austin followed with a fadeaway from the elbow and Carter missed another three headed to the half.
The late run gave Cal an eight point lead at the half, but even that margin doesn’t tell the story of Washington’s offensive struggles. The seven turnovers were not a particularly alarming number, five offensive rebounds were respectable, and five made threes were solid. The issue was poor shooting that came from a lack of assertive playmaking. Cal doubled Stewart every time he touched the ball. He dutifully kicked it out to the perimeter, but nobody was able to punish the defense by finding the open man for a three or a drive into a closing-out defender. Other than Stewart’s limited touches, the Huskies hardly got to the rim to attempt shots. The team’s overall 25% shooting in the first half was reminiscent of USC’s ineptitude at Hec Ed a week ago.
With Plan A of the Stewart post-up not working, the second half started with a need for a new approach from the Dawgs. McDaniels attacked the rim on the first possession of the half. Even though he was tied up for a jump ball, the attack was a welcome sight. Wright then nailed a three to open the second-half scoring, and Bradley responded with a corner three of his own. Carter then went to the bucket himself early in the next possession. The two quick drives showed a clear emphasis on getting into the offense quickly and getting to the basket for easier looks. Even with a more aesthetically pleasing offense, the Dawgs gave up buckets to Anticevich and Bradley and the deficit extended to 10. UW got a minor reprieve when Andre Kelly, who had been defending well inside, picked up his third foul on an attempted rebound.
While a Bey tip-in off his own miss got the margin down to five, Anticevich made a nice assist and a three on consecutive possessions to restore the double-digit lead. The Husky freshmen helped keep the Dawgs within shouting distance. McDaniels made a driving two and a fourth-chance three. Stewart kept fighting inside and got to the line, then had a potential three-point play wiped away by an unkind out-of-bounds whistle. McDaniels made a pair of free throws and the Dawgs pulled within four. Meanwhile, Washington switched to man-to-man defense to take away the high-low passing game that had been working for Cal since the half. A Stewart jumper and an alley-oop to Bey got Washington within a bucket. Bey then got to the line and tied it for the first time since the first half.
To Cal’s credit, they did not back away when they were punched in the mouth. Austin and Anticevich each scored to keep a two-point lead. McDaniels tipped in his own miss, but landed on a foot and twisted his ankle. Bey drove to the basket again and the finish gave UW the lead. Kareem South tied the game on a contested lay-up, but neither team could get much traction offensively and the game was even at 49 with 55 seconds on the clock. Hopkins called a timeout and the Dawgs tried to get the ball to Stewart. Instead, Carter drove to the basket and missed a difficult lay-up.
Cal got the ball back in an even game with an 11 second differential between the shot and game clocks. The Huskies forced a miss on a long three and got the ball back. Carter got a good look at the top of the key, but the shot didn’t fall and the game went to overtime.
South hit a three for the Bears and Bey responded with a triple of his own. Austin then hit a jumper and a lay-up to give Cal a four-point lead. The Dawgs tied it up by sandwiching four free throws around a bad Cal pass. Bradley sliced through traffic for a lay-up and Cal went back ahead. Out of a timeout, Cal switched to a zone. Carter attempted a three and Anticevich fouled him. He made two and the game was tied once again. Bradley ran the clock down for Cal and banked in a three with six seconds left. Wright got off an attempt at the other end, but it didn’t draw iron and the Bears secured the upset.
The loss leaves Washington in a very bad spot for NCAA Tournament selection. While they’re not out of the running entirely, they’ll have to pull off some upsets the rest of the way to atone for this bad loss. Given how poorly the Dawgs have played in the first two games without Green, Hopkins will face one of the biggest and most difficult challenges in his UW tenure in finding a way to restore the basic functionality of the offense.
- Carter had a very tough game. The ball repeatedly found him in good scoring positions, but he couldn’t convert. He finished 2/13 from the field for nine points. He also led the team with four fouls and three turnovers. Without Green in the lineup, Carter’s explosiveness is even more important to help UW get some easy baskets. They weren’t there for him in this one.
- McDaniels started well and played well in the closing minutes, but was largely invisible for a long stretch in between. His final line of 12 points and 11 rebounds is fine, but there’s no excuse for him vanishing while the offense languished. At least he was able to return after he rolled his ankle, which hopefully means the injury isn’t serious.
- The bench rotations raise additional questions. Battle and Tsohonis played early and offered a bit of a spark, but didn’t return. Timmins got the first chance as a sub for Stewart, but Roberts played more as the game went on. Hardy, after starting at Stanford, played strictly as a reserve. Was Hopkins treating Cal as a lesser opponent against whom he can afford to experiment? Was he unhappy with the quicker triggers both young guards had on their shot? Will we see more different lineups in the coming games?
- Bey is not a natural point guard, but he has a solid handle and the athletic ability to get in the lane. Even if he can’t make complex reads or deliver beautiful passes, his penetration can help get the defense moving. His activity level and the spark he provided down the stretch show why he deserves the minutes he received.