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Huskies Falter Late in 70-67 Loss at #5 Arizona

The Dawgs matched up for 28+ minutes but then fell apart down the stretch

Washington v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Coming into this game the Wildcats were 25-0 at home under head coach Tommy Lloyd. That mark now extends to 26-0 but the Huskies made Arizona work for it as the Dawgs held a 7-point lead with less than 12 minutes remaining. From there though the Wildcats went on a 13-0 run and the Dawgs could never quite get back the lead in an 70-67 loss as a potential tying 3 from Keion Brooks Jr. at the buzzer fell short. Washington drops to 9-7 (1-4) on the season.

Washington couldn’t have asked for a much better start. Keyon Menifield Jr. nailed a corner 3 on the Huskies’ first possession. And while Arizona answered with a 3 of their own on the subsequent try, the Dawgs took over from there. Washington went on an 8-0 run behind stingy defense and dominant rebounding against a very tough Arizona frontcourt. Braxton Meah secured an offensive board and managed a 2-handed reverse dunk despite being double teamed while Cole Bajema finished a layup through heavy contact from the 260 lb Oumar Ballo.

As was inevitable the Wildcats started to answer. Noah Williams had his pocket picked which led to a runout dunk for Azuolas Tubelis. Still, Arizona looked uncomfortable even as they closed the lead down to 4 points. Washington kept the Wildcats at bay with a few midrange jumpers from Keion Brooks Jr. After an Arizona miss the Huskies hurried in transition and P.J Fuller canned a wide open corner 3 to go up 18-11 and force a timeout from Tommy Lloyd.

Arizona made a deep 3 and then after a UW make managed to beat every Husky down the floor for an easy layup to once again close it to within 4. Washington absorbed it in stride as Keion Brooks had a nice putback and Noah Williams hit a tough and-1. Oumar Ballo answered with an alley-oop but Jamal Bey showed up after being relegated in recent games. He hit a midrange jumper and then jumped in the passing lanes for a steal and earned a trip to the free throw line on the fast break runout. Bey made both which extended UW’s lead out to double digits for the first time at 29-18 with just under 8 minutes left in the first half.

Unfortunately Keion Brooks picked up his 2nd foul on the next possession and Tubelis made both free throws. The Wildcats went to a press and Fuller had the ball poked away and the refs ruled UW barely didn’t get it across in 10 seconds which negated a Cole Bajema made 3-pointer. The Huskies didn’t panic. P.J Fuller found himself wide open at the top of the arc and swished a 3-pointer to go up 32-20. Tubelis beat everyone down the court after the make but Braxton Meah recovered in time to block his shot and take it away.

The hot shooting continued for Fuller as he hit another 3-pointer on a kickout from Meah to go to 3/3 from deep. Tubelis woke back up the Arizona crowd stepping in front of a lazy pass from Jamal Bey and taking it himself for a thunderous dunk. Bey made up for it though hitting a deep 3 on a no, no, yes shot.

Arizona finally went on a run where the Huskies couldn’t find the basket. Washington was denied inside several times while the Wildcats’ shots down low started to go in consistently. A 6-0 Arizona run took things inside the final media timeout of the 1st half with the Huskies leading by only single digits for the first in a while at 38-30.

Coming out of the break Cole Bajema came away with a steal but P.J Fuller needlessly stepped out of bounds as UW gave it right back. After an Arizona miss Fuller tried to stay perfect from deep but the shot rimmed out while the Wildcats didn’t miss from 3 and cut the lead down to 5. After Jamal Bey’s second offensive foul of the game Arizona hit yet another 3. Washington turned it over yet again and Arizona answered with yet another open 3 and suddenly they were back in the lead over UW at 39-38 after a 15-0 run.

Cole Bajema finally ended the drought as he knocked down the corner 3-pointer. Kerr Kriisa was also called for a flop on the play and Bajema made the technical free throw. Despite an Oumar Ball dunk just before the buzzer it meant that the Huskies still went into the halftime break with a 42-41 lead. That would’ve sounded wonderful at the beginning of the game but felt like a massive letdown after leading by as many as 14 during the 1st half.

Washington’s hot shooting in the 1st half started to regress immediately. Cole Bajema had a corner attempt rim out and on the next possession Keyon Menifield Jr. airballed an attempt from the wing. Fortunately the Huskies decided to get aggressive with Keion Brooks Jr. After an Arizona miss, Brooks received a long outlet pass and knifed through 3 defenders for a nifty layup. After a Noah Williams steal he tried to push it ahead again. The ball was deflected by Arizona but straight back to Williams. The confusion allowed Brooks to get wide open at the rim and Williams found him for an alley-oop and Tommy Lloyd called the timeout after just 2 minutes with UW up 46-41.

Coming out of the timeout Oumar Ballo got an offensive rebound and Brooks fouled him going for the block which was his 3rd. Without Brooks the offense continued to settle for 3’s and miss them. P.J Fuller came in and had an abysmal giveaway and tried to make up for it with a chasedown block but fouled Courtney Ramey who missed both free throws. Hopkins decided though that UW couldn’t live without Brooks out there and he hit a very tough turnaround long 2 to put the Dawgs back up 5.

After several turnovers each way, Braxton Meah had one of the more impressive moves we’ve seen all season backing down against a pair of Arizona bigs and splitting them for an and-1 dunk (although he missed the free throw).

Jamal Bey turned it over for the 4th time and Kerr Kriisa got a transition 3-pointer to fall after the Wildcats started out 0/10 from the floor over the first 8+ minutes of the 2nd half. After a Brooks missed 3 the Arizona bigs played a high-low game that gave Ballo an easy dunk. The Huskies had chances but committed multiple stupid turnovers and eventually Ballo got a basket to fall despite contact from Meah for an and-1. The made free throw completed an 8-0 Wildcat run to give them back the lead at 51-50 with 9:38 remaining.

Arizona went back to the press and it forced UW out of rhythm eventually resulting in a Husky turnover with 2 seconds left and a Larsson 3-pointer to keep the run going. Washington again showed no inclination to try to score the ball and Noah Williams was blocked at the buzzer for a shot clock violation while Arizona scored in less than 2 seconds after the whistle to extend the run to 13-0 going into the under 8 media timeout.

Cole Bajema was able to end the run finally by hitting a contested 3-pointer and bringing it back within one possession. After another Tubelis putback, Noah Williams hit his first 3-pointer of the season to bring it back to 58-56. The Huskies came up with a steal and Williams went to the line for a 1-and-1 and missed the first. Jamal Bey hustled though to come up with the rebound and Bajema’s 3-pointer to potentially take the lead was way off.

Offensive rebounds again killed the Huskies as Pelle Larsson got a board and was fouled by Braxton Meah, making both. Washington couldn’t get the same whistle as the Dawgs twice challenged Oumar Ballo amidst contact and didn’t get a call for a pair of turnovers. They did eventually get a call though after a Wildcat missed 3 when 2 Arizona players jumped on Braxton Meah’s back following his pump fake.

Meah though missed his 4th straight free throw on the front end of a 1-and-1 as UW came up empty. Kerr Kriisa answered with a 3-pointer on the other end and that squashed any remaining hope for UW given their moribund offense. Cole Bajema hit a ridiculous fade away corner 3 to end a 4 and a half minute Husky scoring drought but it wasn’t enough. UW had a chance to get the ball back down 4 with 1:06 left but Arizona got off a desperation 3 before the end of the shot clock and the long rebound bounced off UW out of bounds.

Arizona tried to give Washington a chance. They missed the front end of multiple 1-and-1’s down the stretch and the Dawgs got the ball trailing by 3 points with 16.7 seconds left. Fuller raced down the court but was stripped by Kriisa out of bounds. Noah Williams on the inbounds never tried to move the ball and forced Brooks into taking a contested 3 which was well short at the buzzer.

Given the level of competition this still has to be considered the best game the Huskies have played all season despite the loss. This is the toughest road contest Washington will have all season and they had the lead late in the 2nd half and were within one possession going into the final 4 minutes. Still, the reality is that the Huskies are now 1-4 in Pac-12 play and have another tough road game at Arizona State coming up on Sunday.

Coming off Washington’s 2/25 disaster shooting performance against UCLA it was encouraging to see the Dawgs rebound and shoot 36% from beyond the arc against Arizona until the final minutes with some desperation looks. In a pressure-packed road game Hop kept the rotation tight as Koren Johnson didn’t get in the game while Keyon Menifield started each half and otherwise didn’t play.

Brooks and Bajema each had 16 points to lead Washington although it took Brooks 18 shots to get there (he did have 8 rebounds). Meah had to play almost every minute against 2 of the best bigs in the country and only had 4 points on 0/4 FT shooting but was huge on defense with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. Turnovers ultimately doomed Washington with 17 “led” by Fuller’s 5.