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Huskies Hit Rock Bottom in 84-78 Loss at Cal

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Washington cements its place in the cellar of the Pac-12 standings

NCAA Basketball: Washington at California Chris Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Washington had a golden opportunity for their first conference win playing their fellow cellar-dweller in the Pac-12 standings which was missing their leading scorer. Instead, a pair of 2nd half comebacks ultimately fell short as the Huskies wasted a long-awaited breakout game from Erik Stevenson to fall to 1-9 (0-5) on the season).

The Washington offense came out looking like they had finally found their spark in the second half against Stanford when they put up 50+ points. Stevenson started things off driving inside and got fouled to put UW up 2-0. Quade Green did the same and Stevenson came back for seconds as the Huskies were 6/6 from the line by the first media timeout on the way to a 10-4 lead.

Andre Kelly showed why he’s Cal’s best post scorer though and had the first 6 points for the Bears. From there Ryan Betley took over briefly and hit back-to-back 3-pointers to bring Cal closer. Fortunately J’Raan Brooks hit his first 3-pt shot of the season and Tsohonis hit a floater in the lane to go up 19-15 with 12:10 remaining.

From that point on though the Husky offense fell into their usual funk. It was a comedy of errors on both ends of the floor as Washington stopped getting the whistle when they thought they were going to and got it called going against them to boot. The Huskies were called for 4 shooting fouls the rest of the half and Cal turned it into 8 made FTs.

Meanwhile, a moving screen against Roberts negated an Erik Stevenson 3-pointer. Hameir Wright was called for a carry. Then in UW’s final 3 possessions of the half the Huskies were called for multiple traveling violations that could easily have been let go.

Andre Kelly in between the free throws continued to abuse the Huskies inside whenever he was in the game. He hit layups, hook shots, and a deep baseline jumper before finally missing a shot and had 14 points on 7/8 shooting in the half. UW went into the break down 40-32.

Washington had a sluggish start to the second half and Hop called timeout with the Huskies down by 11 after a minute and a half. The lead swelled to 13 after Hameir Wright fouled going for a block leading to an and-1 but then Washington seemingly found their fighting spirit after Cal missed their 3rd consecutive free throw.

Quade hit a pair of layups including an and-1 layup which brought Washington back to single digits at 37-45. Then Erik Stevenson continued his hot streak from the first half and nailed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to close the margin to 2. After some back and forth Stevenson got it in the corner on an inbounds pass for another made 3-pointer which put Washington ahead 53-50 and completed a 21-5 run since the Hopkins timeout.

However, Ryan Betley and Makale Foreman were equally hot for Cal from deep and they continued to bomb it successfully from behind the arc. The last of Foreman’s deep 3’s was made while double teamed and capped a 12-0 Cal run that extended the lead out to 9 points for the Bears with 6:15 remaining.

Washington still didn’t give up though. Jamal Bey continued to play aggressively when guarded by Ryan Betley and made a couple of and-1’s. Erik Stevenson hit a transition 3-pointer and a Quade Green floater tied the game at 71 again with 3:35 remaining.

From there it came down to who could get a stop and Washington proved incapable. The Bears remembered that Andre Kelly had been unstoppable inside and he hit a couple of hook shots. UW was still within reach when Cal’s lowest scoring starter Joel Brown was left open after the Dawgs double teamed Kelly and he hit a wide open 3-pointer. On the next possession Quade drove into the lane and the ball was blocked straight into Brown’s arms who raced down the court for the layup and dagger.

Stevenson ended up leading the Huskies with what was by far a season high 27 points on 7/9 3-pt shooting. Jamal Bey had a career high for the second consecutive game with 18 while Quade Green 16 but failed to make a 3-pointer. The Huskies actually won the rebounding battle by a count of 32-24 but the defense just couldn’t do enough as Cal finished shooting 55% from the floor and 42% from 3-pt range.

It was clear coming into this game that these were the 2 worst teams in the conference and the outcome likely doesn’t do anything but cement the order. Cal was missing their leading scorer in Matt Bradley and yet had no problem making baskets against the Huskies as Andre Kelly torched them inside on 11/13 shooting.

There were still some odd rotation patterns as Hop searched for answers. Nate Pryor didn’t play until the 2nd half after sitting the whole game against Stanford at which point he seemingly took over for Marcus Tsohonis who was a -12 in the first half. But otherwise it was a fairly tight bunch with limited minutes for Sorn and Bajema and none for RaeQuan Battle.

Against the worst defense in the conference it’s hard to say the offense is magically fixed because of one game where Erik Stevenson caught fire. But the defense failing to get stops when it was actually able to mostly prevent getting killed on the glass was a very poor omen.

The way that odds function, it’s still incredibly unlikely the Huskies go winless from here on out. They’ll get to play Cal again this time at home. But failing to secure this win means Washington will be heavy underdogs in their next 4 contests and will likely need to win a home game against a much improved Washington State in a few weeks to keep the losing streak from reaching double digits.

Washington is next scheduled to take the court at USC on Thursday night.