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Husky Offense Struggles Again in 5th Straight Loss

Washington ends their 5-game gauntlet winless after a listless effort in Tempe

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Washington knew they had an unbelievably tough stretch with 5 premium opponents in a row over the span of 18 days. After almost upsetting Arizona on Thursday night there was hope the Huskies might be able to finally end their losing streak. They were nowhere close as ASU dominated after the first 4 minutes and cruised to a 73-65 victory over UW (despite a much too late Husky run) that included 11 dunks. The Dawgs fall to 9-8 (1-5) on the season.

It was a slow start with a lot of fouls in the early going. The Huskies managed a pair of and-1’s as part of 4 ASU fouls in the first 4 minutes to get out to a 6-5 early lead. The Sun Devils in that time tried primarily to shoot the long ball and made 1 of their first 6 tries. The love of touch fouls by the refs bit Washington as Bajema picked up a pair of ticky tack fouls and was sent to the bench before the 15 minute mark. Then shortly after Braxton Meah tried to dive on a loose ball to force a tie-up and was instead called for his 2nd foul.

Washington’s defense continually stymied the Sun Devils. After a dunk on the first possession they made just 1 of their next 12 shot attempts. As often is the case though the Husky offense couldn’t stretch out a significant lead. UW mostly stayed away from launching 3-pointers but the lead was just 11-5 when ASU stole a Menifield pass for a fastbreak dunk to break their drought.

Each team had their big men take a 3-pointer and Jackson Grant’s shot missed while ASU’s contested look went in to cut it down to a 1-point lead. Washington’s offense looked completely listless as P.J Fuller was forced to shoot a desperation 3 from about 7 feet beyond the arc and airballed it leading to several substitutions. None of that helped as the Huskies continued to miss shot after shot, some of which gave ASU a chance for easy buckets in transition.

Cole Bajema finally hit a deep 3 to end what was almost a 9 minute drought in between made baskets for the Huskies . In the end it was an 11-0 run for the Sun Devils during that time. ASU immediately answered on the other end with an and-1 basket of their own. Disaster struck when Braxton Meah was called for his 3rd foul with 5:15 left in the 1st half for a shove in the back to get an offensive rebound and he was banished to the bench again.

Fortunately ASU was called for a lane violation on the front end of the 1-and-1 which negated a make and gave the Huskies the ball right back. Jamal Bey hit a contested 3 and suddenly Washington tied it back up at 19. It didn’t last long as Jamiya Neal continued his red-hot start for the Sun Devils with his 2nd made 3 and had 12 of ASU’s 22 points.

Each point guard started to struggle offensively. Noah Williams missed the front end of a 1-and-1 twice. For ASU, Frankie Collins split a pair of free throws and missed a gimme transition layup and then committed his 2nd foul unnecessarily immediately after. Finally Noah got on the board hitting a wide open 3-pointer to give UW back the lead 26-25. Arizona State hit a tough step back 3 that in the moment looked like it had a foot on the line but was called good. Noah Williams tried to go isolation as the clock ran out and predictably missed a contested midrange jumper. Keion Brooks led the Dawgs with 9 points and 9 rebounds at the break as UW trailed 28-26.

The 2nd half didn’t look a whole lot different at the start. Arizona State made their first basket of the half and shortly after Braxton Meah was again called for a shove in the back going after an offensive rebound. It was his 4th and Jackson Grant was forced to enter the game less than 2 minutes into the 2nd half.

Arizona State went on a quick 5-0 run surrounded by Keion Brooks Jr. missing a point blank layup that put ASU up 35-28 and their biggest lead of the game to that point. The calls continued to go against the Huskies as Brooks was called for an offensive foul and ASU dunked what looked like a missed shot over the cylinder but it was ruled not to be offensive goaltending.

Things continued to deteriorate as ASU got open for the backdoor lob catching Noah Williams napping. Cole Bajema was way short on a 3 which caused an awkward rebound that multiple Huskies went after but couldn’t quite grab. The Sun Devils used the numbers advantage to shoot a fastbreak 3-pointer and it went in pushing their lead to double digits at 42-32 for the first time and prompting a Hopkins timeout. It didn’t help as Brooks missed a 3 and ASU managed an emphatic putback and-1 dunk

The Huskies finally scored on a Brooks dunk but ASU answered with a prayer of a hook shot that went in and a 50/50 call going against Jamal Bey for an offensive foul and turnover. P.J Fuller with the shot clock at 1 threw it straight to a Sun Devil to start a fastbreak and resulted in another lob dunk for Arizona State.

With the Huskies trailing by 13 and just over 10 minutes left, Mike Hopkins finally opted to put Braxton Meah in with his 4 fouls. Washington’s offense didn’t improve as Brooks was called for an offensive foul then P.J Fuller committed another live ball turnover resulting in an Arizona State easy basket. Jamal Bey made a wing 3-pointer on his 2nd attempt following a Brooks offensive board and Menifield converted a transition layup for a quick 5-0 burst and Bobby Hurley immediately called timeout with UW back within 10 at 54-44.

Meah’s impact back in the game was felt right away as he had a pair of blocks that would’ve been dunks for Arizona State against anyone else on the Husky roster. Unfortunately Keion Brooks was stripped on the perimeter leading to an easy 1v0 dunk for ASU that pushed the lead back to 10. Then Bajema had a 3 rim out while ASU made their 3 and suddenly the Huskies trailed by 13. Another transition lob dunk following a Menifield missed 3 and UW trailed by 15.

The Arizona State lead ballooned over 20 points before Noah Williams hit a pair of 3-pointers (including a 4-point play) in the final minute against the walk-ons to make the final margin appear more respectable. Bobby Hurley was so unhappy with their effort that he subbed the starters back in who still gave up another made 3 to Jamal Bey. Washington miraculously covered the 9.5-point spread despite trailing 70-50 with under 3 minutes remaining.

Keion Brooks Jr. led Washington with 15 points and 11 rebounds but had 4 turnovers including 3 offensive fouls. Noah Williams somehow also finished with 15 points after getting 7 in the last minute plus 8 rebounds despite missing the front end of 1-and-1’s twice. Keyon Menifield had 10 points and 8 assists but it took him 15 shots to do it as Warren Washington shut down the paint for much of the game.

This was a game where the absence of Franck Kepnang was felt acutely. With Braxton Meah in foul trouble the whole game Washington had to play a lot of Jackson Grant, Brooks at the 5, and dust off Langston Wilson from storage. When Braxton wasn’t in there the Sun Devils had free reign at the baskets helping to lead to their dominant inside presence particularly in transition. It didn’t really matter though with the way the Huskies shot the ball as they finished 7/25 on 3-pointers in another dismal performance after a decent night in that regard against Arizona. And that required 3 makes in the final minute against walk-ons.

The Huskies have the easiest remaining stretch of their season coming up with the Bay Area schools at home who are a combined 8-23 this year. Washington badly needs a pair of wins there to have any shot at bouncing back this season.