Sometimes having to play in the 1st round of the conference tournament helps you when you are in the flow and don’t have any jitters. Other times it comes back to bite you when you run out of steam down the stretch. Both ended up true for the Huskies as they let an 8-point lead in the 2nd half slip away and fell to the 3rd seeded Trojans 65-61 in the quarterfinal of the Pac-12 tournament. The loss drops Washington to 17-15 on the season and almost certainly ends their season as they are unlikely to earn an NIT at-large bid.
From the very beginning it was clear that Terrell Brown Jr. desperately did not want this to be his last game in a Husky uniform. He managed to score Washington’s first 9 points on a variety of moves including a rare 3-point make. Brown’s 8th and 9th points were on a coast to coast layup pushing the pace and they put the Huskies in front 9-8 with 14:45 left.
USC made a bit of a run after that spurt with a 5-0 burst including 3 makes at the free throw line. Washington finally got some points from someone other than Brown when Langston Wilson (who didn’t play last night) nailed a 3-pointer at the top of the arc. After Wilson airballed his next 3, Emmitt Matthews Jr. put it back in and gave UW the lead once again.
Over the next several minutes the 2 teams largely traded baskets with neither team leading by more than 2 until there were under 9 minutes left in the half. Terrell Brown Jr. struck again getting USC’s backup center in the spin cycle and then making the floater through a foul for a 3-point play to put Washington up 24-19. That 5-point margin seemed to be the best the Huskies could do for a while though. USC made just enough plays in transition and on second chance points to not allow Washington to separate despite Terrell Brown Jr.’s insane half. Finally, with 1:38 left in the 1st half Brown forced up a late shot clock 3-pointer and buried it to give him 21 points and put Washington up 39-33.
The Huskies had the chance to break it open just before the break but Emmitt Matthews Jr. missed an open corner 3. USC found an open corner shot of their own and this time it went in despite the outstretched arms of a closing Langston Wilson. PJ Fuller missed a 3 at the buzzer and UW led 39-36 at halftime. Washington’s 11/11 shooting from the free throw line was enough to keep pace despite every Husky not named Brown shooting a combined 5/18 from the field.
It was clear that someone other than Brown had to heat up in the 2nd half and it didn’t look like Jamal Bey was doing his part. He missed a pair of free throws and a 3 to start off 0/6 from the field. But after a great offensive rebound by Nate Roberts he finally got a 3 to go down. On the next possession Daejon Davis stole the ball and got it ahead to Terrell Brown Jr. who finished a layup through contact (but no call) and the 5-0 start to the half in less than 2 minutes prompted an Andy Enfield timeout. UW’s 8-point lead unfortunately would be their largest of the game.
Whether you credit the timeout or not, USC made a run coming out of that stoppage. Jamal Bey passed up a layup for a Roberts dunk but didn’t realize how little time was left and it went through the hoop just after the shot clock expired and was waived off. Boogie Ellis started to feel it for USC and made a pair of deep 3’s to get the Trojans back within 2 at 46-44 by the first media timeout of the 2nd half.
USC took their first lead since midway through the 1st half as Daejon Davis picked up his 3rd foul on a USC put back and-1. Washington answered though as a pair of steals led to Emmitt Matthews Jr. dunks in transition on feeds from Terrell Brown Jr. Unfortunately, disaster struck for Nate Roberts as he chose to try a point blank layup rather than dunking it and the ball just rimmed out. USC used the miss to get out in transition and Roberts picked up his 3rd foul running into Boogie Ellis who got the layup to go for an and-1 but fortunately missed the free throw to preserve a narrow 50-49 UW lead.
Neither team found much offensive flow over the next 4 minutes. Nate Roberts split a pair of free throws but that was all the Huskies could muster on offense. USC’s Drew Peterson sank a pair of free throws after getting fouled in transition and it put the Trojans back on top at 53-51 with 7:46 left.
Both teams finally got a 3-point shot to go down, first Jamal Bey on an inbounds play and then Drew Peterson hit his first deep shot on the next possession to reclaim the lead for the Trojans. Nate Roberts scored his first points of the night finishing a lob with a lay-in but they became his only points of the night. Roberts picked up his 4th foul going for a defensive rebound and Hop chose to leave him in the game. Not 5 seconds later he got switched onto Boogie Ellis on the perimeter and hand checked him as Ellis was driving by and fouled out with 6:13 remaining, forcing UW to go with Langston Wilson and Emmitt Matthews Jr. at center the rest of the game.
Terrell Brown Jr. kept trying to rediscover his 1st half form by driving the ball into the trees but he both wasn’t getting shots to fall and wasn’t getting calls. He drove on a fast break with a little over 4 minutes left but it was blocked amid contact and the ball landed on top of Brown while he was out of bounds for a turnover. Washington could not buy a basket down the stretch as it appeared the lack of depth and games on back-to-back nights caught up with them. Emmitt Matthews Jr. had a go-ahead 3 attempt hit the front of the rim.
The defining sequence though came after UW got a steal down 3 with just over a minute left. Terrell Brown Jr. again charged looking for a call on the fast break but he slipped as he went to jump and it was easily stripped. USC flung it ahead and Isaiah Mobley laid it in while Daejon Davis reached harmlessly at his waist to foul out of the game and put USC up by 5 with under a minute left.
Washington certainly didn’t wave the white flag. Cole Bajema got fouled and made one of 2 at the line. Then the Huskies harassed USC on 3 consecutive inbounds attempts with their full-court press. The first time resulted in a held ball with possession sticking with USC. The next 2 times were turnovers as PJ Fuller stole the ball and laid it in to bring UW within 2. Then after an Emmitt Matthews Jr. drawn charge, Terrell Brown Jr. drove to the rim but had it blocked by Isaiah Mobley.
It was initially called off Cole Bajema but on review it was off Mobley and the Huskies retained possession with 12 seconds left. Emmitt Matthews Jr. ended up trying to drive and go with an 8-foot hook shot/runner but it was an air ball and USC corralled the rebound with 6 seconds left. USC made their 2 free throws to extend the lead to 4 and put it out of reach. In the end Washington finished the game making just 1 of their final 12 shots and will look back on a boatload of missed opportunities that could’ve kept their season alive.
After his hot start, Terrell Brown Jr. missed his final 10 shots in a Husky uniform but still ended up with a game high 23 points. Washington held a +15 turnover advantage but were outrebounded by 12 and shot just 30.8% from the field to end up with the loss. Emmitt Matthews Jr. (12 pts) and Jamal Bey (10 pts) both joined Brown in double figures but each finished 3/10 from the floor. Fellow starters Daejon Davis and Nate Roberts combined for 2 points on 1/9 shooting in what definitely was his last game as a Husky for Davis and could be for Roberts as well.
Ultimately this Husky team showed that they had a ton of heart but just didn’t have the offensive talent to keep up with a team like USC when Brown struggled in the 2nd half. While frustrating at times this was still a fun team to watch throughout conference play and who competed in all but a few games. They improved from the preseason #11 team to 6th in the standings and came close to making the tournament semifinals. But UW will enter next year (Hop’s 6th if he returns) having gone 3 years without even an NIT bid and losing their best offensive player (Brown) and defensive player (Davis). We’ll find out in the coming weeks how many other holes they need to patch with several other contributors that have graduated and who could transfer/play overseas but have eligibility remaining (Matthews, Bey, Roberts, and Sorn).
I’d like to conclude with one last thank you to Terrell Brown Jr. It looked like he just ran out of gas in the 2nd half tonight but he gave it his all as he has all season carrying this team to something semi-passable on offense while playing 90% of the team’s minutes in Pac-12 play. It would’ve been great to watch him play for Washington all 4 seasons rather than just 1 but this is still a season from him I’ll never forget with his unique style and amazing scoring prowess.
We’ll have plenty of wrap-up coverage on the season in the coming weeks. Go Dawgs!