For the second time this season the Huskies unexpectedly stepped up to have the ball within one possession against a conference frontrunner. And for the second time they were unable to hit a clutch shot as the Huskies blew a 10-point halftime lead and fell to Pac-12 unbeaten UCLA. The loss drops Washington to 1-11 (0-7) on the season.
Washington has had sustained stretches of offensive achievement but right from the jump they seemed to play well on both ends of the floor for the first time practically all season. Quade Green jumpstarted the offense with an off the dribble 3 and a transition layup to give the Huskies an early 7-2 advantage. Bey decided a 5-0 run looked fun and got one of his own with a cut for a layup and a corner 3 which put UW on top 12-4.
From there UCLA remembered that the Huskies have issues with defensive rebounding. The Bruins kept getting 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances and eventually were able to capitalize. Meanwhile, David Singleton who entered the day hitting 50% from 3-pt range continued his torrid shooting with a trio of 3’s in the first half. Point guard Tyger Campbell who has struggled from deep hit a wide open look which gave the Bruins a 22-20 lead with 7:40 left in the half and seemed like things had unraveled.
But Washington showed they weren’t quite ready to give up. Riley Sorn put together his best minutes in several weeks getting offensive rebounds as well as challenging interior shots on defense. Erik Stevenson’s el fuego stretch continued as he knocked down 3/5 3-pt shots in the first half. And Quade Green played aggressive on both ends of the floor leading to steals and transition baskets. Despite 60% of the starting lineup picking up 2 fouls the Huskies closed the half on a 19-7 run and entered the break up 39-29. Quade Green led all scorers with 12 points while Stevenson chipped in with 11.
Things were immediately different at the start of the second half. The refs started calling every little contact against UW with dire consequences. Both Stevenson and Roberts were called for off ball fouls on the same possession and another was called on Roberts in a scrum fighting for a contested rebound. That gave him his 4th and sent him to the bench. 5 fouls against UW versus 0 for UCLA helped spark a 10-0 Bruins run to tie the game at 39 and force a Mike Hopkins timeout.
Quade Green decided to take over on the offensive end to try to give UW back the lead as he drove for a pull up midrange jumper and got to the line for 2 more on consecutive possessions. The Washington defense though could not keep UCLA off the offensive glass and a deep Jules Bernard 3-pointer gave UCLA their first lead in a long time at 46-45 with 13:48 remaining in the game.
The breaks continued to go against Washington when a very clear goaltend at UCLA didn’t get called and UCLA used that as part of a 6-2 mini-run to build their lead out to 6. Ironically the only basket for UW in that short stretch was due to a UCLA goaltend that did rightly get called.
Erik Stevenson tried to dribble along the baseline but was called for a charge which was his 4th and sent him to the bench. Quade Green kept the offense flowing though with a nice assist for a layup for Riley Sorn and a 3-point make that that brought the Dawgs back within 2. In the blink of an eye though UCLA answered with a 5-0 run punctuated by a transition dunk when Hameir Wright mishandled the ball on the perimeter leading to a 1v0 runout.
Still the Huskies kept playing hard despite trailing by 7 with 8:20 remaining. Hameir Wright knocked down a corner 3 and on the next possession Tsohonis hit one as well to instantly pull UW back close at 61-60. Tsohonis continued his sweet shooting with a pair of midrange jumpers the last of which gave the Dawgs the lead back at 64-63 (although he airballed a free throw in between the contested makes somehow).
The teams continued to trail blows over the next several minutes and Jamal Bey split a pair of free throws to break up a 69-69 tie with 3:30 left. Washington’s defense fell apart from there and UCLA hit their next 4 shots to extend their advantage to 77-70. Riley Sorn converted a layup opportunity and made a pair of free throws after an over the back call against the Bruins on the other end to close the gap to within one possession. UCLA missed and Mike Hopkins called a timeout down 77-74 with 24 seconds remaining.
The play he drew up was clearly intended for Quade Green but Erik Stevenson didn’t pass him the ball and then took a deep contested 3 that predictably missed and that was all she wrote as UCLA made their final 4 free throw attempts. Coach Hopkins rightly appeared furious at Stevenson for making that decision after sitting on the bench with 4 fouls for the previous 8 minutes of game time immediately preceding it.
Washington has to be disappointed that they failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity but hopefully it can still provide some positive momentum for them going forward as there were plenty of good performances. RaeQuan Battle and J’Raan Brooks were the players glued to the bench today as Hop continues to play roulette with the rotations (plus Nate Pryor who did not make the trip due to personal reasons).
Riley Sorn came off the bench with Nate Roberts’ severe foul trouble to chip in with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks plus the best defense he has played in a while. Marcus Tsohonis also came in as a reserve and contributed 9 points and 3 assists on 4/6 shooting mostly in the second half when Erik Stevenson was in foul trouble. Hameir Wright set a career high with 15 points on 3/5 shooting from deep which can hopefully be the turnaround point for him to recover from his rough start.
The offensive star of the show though was Quade Green who gave it his all trying to will the team to victory with 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on 10/16 shooting. Erik Stevenson ended up with 0 points in the second half including that final missed shot to end up with 11 overall.
UCLA struggled offensively at times against Washington’s defense but ended up shooting 45% from 3-pt range and 82% from the free throw line. They also finished with 15 offensive rebounds as they often played volleyball around the rim until it finally got tipped in, they got fouled, or it got kicked out for an open 3-pointer.
We’ll see if the Huskies can build on this effort to find some consistency moving forward. Things don’t get much easier from here though as UW next hosts 11-3 Colorado on Wednesday who might be playing the best ball of any team in the conference.