Washington’s recent defensive improvements did not stick against the Cougars. WSU’s struggling offense had little trouble finding room against UW’s zone, matching their highest regulation scoring output since the start of conference play. Isaac Bonton, who came into the game shooting under 40% from the floor, choreographed an effective offensive attack that got plenty of clean looks near the basket. WSU stretched the lead to 20 early in the second half. The Huskies did not fold entirely, but the feeble comeback attempt was only enough to get to a 77-62 final.
Coming into the game, the obvious storyline was WSU’s hopeless offense against the Dawgs’ highly questionable defense. The Cougs got the better of that matchup for the first few moments with shots that were not pleasing to the eye but got through the net. Their distributed scoring combined with UW laying bricks added up to a 10-2 start early on.
Quade Green helped turn things around for the Dawgs with a three and a driving layup. He then dished to Jamal Bey for a three and drained another corner three to put UW in the lead 13-12. WSU did their part in the comeback with six straight missed shots sandwiched around a pair of turnovers. Both teams found some success with dribble penetration into the heart of the opponent’s zone.. Isaac Bonton and Noah Williams were both able to get into space and make floaters for WSU. Their penetration also collapsed the defense to drop-off passes to big men Dishon Jackson and Efe Ahogidi.
On the other end, WSU tightened up their on-ball defense enough to slow down UW’s dribble penetration. Without that form of offensive initiation, the Huskies struggled to keep pace. Even with 0-10 shooting from outside the arc, the Cougars were able to push the lead to 31-21. To make matters worse, Green came down awkwardly on his ankle after missing a runner and had to come out of the game. Bey finally broke the slump with a straight-on three to pull back to 33-24. Tsohonis got another one to drop, but they couldn’t get stops on the other end. WSU led 38-29 at half, on pace for about 15 more points than they’ve scored in any recent game.
Fortunately for UW, Green came back in the lineup after halftime. Aside from an Erik Stevenson three, Green’s return didn’t do much to clean up UW’s offensive sloppiness. The Cougar offense was no great shakes, but Bonton pinged enough smart passes into the teeth of the zone to stretch WSU’s advantage comfortably in the double digits. Hameir Wright’s tip dunk briefly looked like a potential momentum swing, but Washington could not maintain it. The Husky perimeter defenders continued to struggle with Bonton. His penetration allowed him to find his big men near the basket or shoot from midrange and WSU maintained a lead close to 20.
After WSU’s ice cold start from outside the three-point line kept the game close early. The Cougs heated up in the second half, hitting five of their first nine from three after halftime. UW finally found a way to slow down WSU’s offense with full-court pressure. The Huskies got a handful of stops, but the offense could not score enough to dig out of the hole they dug on the defensive end.
After steps forward in recent games, the Huskies took a giant step backwards in this one. The recent defensive progress was nowhere to be seen. A poor shooting WSU team shot 58% from inside the arc. The 2-3 zone offered little resistance with Bonton and Wiliams getting by the first line of defense to the tune of 46 combined points. Even the UW offense lacked many bright spots. Green scored 20 points, but it took 18 shots, and none of the Bey-Stevenson-Tsohonis second-line did enough to spark a moribund unit.