The Washington Huskies came into Thursday night undefeated facing California Baptist but failed to leave without a clean record, falling 73 to 64 in a poor shooting performance. Even the return of injured Keion Brooks was not enough to come away with the victory. The Huskies fall to 3-1 on the season and prepare for the Wooden Legacy Tournament in California next week.
Through the first 3 games, the Washington Huskies have gotten off to a slow start in all 3 games to start the year but decided to mix it up this time by hitting their first 3 baskets to take an early 8-0 lead that forced an early timeout by California Baptist Head Coach Rick Croy. That timeout would help change the tide as the Huskies started to have a difficult time scoring the ball. The Huskies would go 1 for their next 10 shots to fall behind 15 to 12 with 10:26 left in the first half.
Keion Brooks did make his return from injury after missing two games and started off by hitting his first jumper. However, the rust would soon follow and Keion struggled shooting the ball in the 1st half and missed his next 6 shots. Brooks had a few good looks but also forced a few difficult mid range shots and was not able to have much luck getting to the basket.
Phenom Freshman Keyon Menifield came off the bench after scoring 26 points in the previous game against Utah Tech but did not have early success tonight. Menifield didn’t take his first shot until the 10:45 mark of the game and had a difficult time scoring, barely drawing iron on a couple of shots but was able to get on the board with a transition layup.
Keyon Menifield and fellow Freshman Koren Johnson were involved in perhaps the best play of the first half when Koren stole the ball from Cal Baptist Guard Tre Armstrong and quickly passed up to Keyon Menifield who gave it right back for an easy Koren Johnson layup. The play got the crowd going and briefly gave UW a 16-15 lead and Langston Wilson followed up with a banked in 3 to take a 19 to 17 Washington lead with 8:37 left.
This would be UW’s last lead of the half and California Baptist outscored UW 16 to 9 the rest of the first half. UW missed several contested and long jumpers to finish out the half. California Baptist found success with the three-pointer, especially during transition. California Baptist would shoot 5-9 from 3 in the first half to help take a 33 to 26 lead into the break.
Huskies turn to the Freshman and the Twin Towers in the 2nd half
Keyon Menifield got the start in the 2nd half in place of Jamal Bey to try and mix things up and perhaps get the Freshman going. Cal Baptist went right at Menifield and Jose Quintana hit a tough layup over Menifield to score out of the break. Menifield also was switched to guard 6’9 Riley Battin who outweighs Menifield by almost 100 pounds, which forced Braxton Meah to come over and help but fouled Battin.
Keyon Menifield did get some revenge with a fancy layup to bring the Cal Baptist lead to 37-30 and then hit another very difficult layup over 7-footer Timothy Ighoefe and drew a foul. The layup over the 7 footer was an example of how Keyon has the explosive ability to get his shots over taller defenders, despite the difficulty.
Keion Brooks tried to get going anyway he could. Brooks was able to get to the foul line for a couple of Free throws and then got out on the break off of a steal for a dunk but still struggled to get his jumper or mid range game going. Brooks couldn’t shake the rust off completely and finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds on 4 for 12 shooting on the night. Mike Hopkins later admitted after the game that he may have rushed Keion back to quickly after missing several practices.
California Baptist started to cool off from 3 but still was able to find a few cracks in the zone defense to make UW switch back to man to man.
Perhaps the best offense of the 2nd half was the Huskies penetrating the lane and missing a layup with Franck Kepnang cleaning up the miss for a put back dunk. Kepnang was able to follow up a couple of misses to help get UW within a 5 point lead late in the 2nd half.
The Huskies were able to pull within 50 to 46 after another difficult layup by Keyon Menifield with 9:29 left that got the crowd on it’s feet for the 1st time. Unfortunately on the next California Baptist possession, nobody guarded Hunter Goodrick who drove the lane for a dunk and was fouled by Franck Kepnang. Big turn in momentum.
California Baptist would extend their lead back to 10 when the Huskies went back to their Twin Tower lineup that saw success versus Utah Tech. It showed early returns as the first possession led to an open Cole Bajema three-pointer and Braxton Meah was able to get a few dunks inside.
The Huskies would have a few more opportunities to come back but struggled to capitalize and get over the hump. Kepnang was able to score a few more times inside and finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds to lead UW in scoring.
With 5:26 left in the game, Braxton Meah forces a steal down 5 and pushed the ball up court to Cole Bajema who missed a contested layup. Meah would grab the offensive rebound and the Huskies would have two wide open three-point looks from Bajema and Keyon Menifield but could not convert. Three great chances to bring the game within one possession and could not come away with any points.
UW would have one last gasp after a nice lob pass from PJ Fuller to Franck Kepnang pulled UW with 5 at 62-57 with 3:33 left. However that would be the closest UW would get and the Star Point Guard for Cal Baptist, Taran Armstrong took over by converting a 3 point play and hit a dagger 3 to put Cal Baptist up 11 points on their next possession.
Taran Armstrong had multiple 10+ assist games last year as a true freshman and really took over the game tonight with wrap around passes for easy dunks and tough baskets late in the game. The 6’6 Armstrong finished with 18 points 6 assists and 2 steals. 7 foot Transfer from Georgetown Timothy Ighoefe (10 points) was on the receiving end of a few of those passes for a few thunderous dunks and stalled any momentum for Washington.
Franck Kepnang (14 points), PJ Fuller (11 Points) and Keion Brooks (11 points) were the only Huskies to finish in Double Figures and the Huskies finish the game shooting 39% from the field, which was the lowest output of the season. Keion and Keyon finished with a combined 8 for 26 shooting in a game where they were looking for chemistry playing extensive minutes together for the 1st time this season.
The Huskies will look to bounce back and hope the chemistry picks up in a hurry as they head to California for the Wooden Legacy Tournament and play Fresno State next Wednesday November 23rd at 6:30 pm and either St. Mary’s or Vanderbilt on Thanksgiving Day (Time TBD).