Washington imported veteran experience to bolster their starting lineup this offseason. Nevada returned a veteran roster laden with seniors who had played together. That difference was striking as the Huskies played a disjointed game and fell behind by as many as 16 in the first half on the way to an 83-76 defeat; their first of the season. Keion Brooks Jr. finished with a 19 point, 11 rebound double double to lead Washington in scoring.
Things didn’t go Washington’s way almost from the opening tip. Moses Wood deflected a pass but it bounced right back to the player he was guarding who drove for an and-1 dunk over a recovering Wood. Shortly after that Wood was called for his 2nd foul and sat the final 17+ minutes of the first half.
The Huskies got their first real highlight of the night when Sahvir Wheeler dished it to a trailing Keion Brooks Jr. for a vicious slam that put the Dawgs within a pair trailing 8-6.
That’s when the free throw troubles began. Braxton Meah split a pair of free throws and soon after Sahvir Wheeler missed a free throw on what could’ve tied the game at 10. Instead, Nevada went on a 5-0 spurt to open up a 15-9 lead with 13:25 remaining. It was Koren Johnson’s turn to split a pair of free throws before Nate Calmese bailed out the offense with a pair of three-pointers in the next few minutes. Washington’s defense couldn’t get stops though even with Nevada’s bigs in foul trouble and the second of those 3’s only closed it to within 23-18 with 9 minutes left.
Washington was never able to get into an offensive flow in the first half as a foul was called on one team or the other on almost every possession. The Huskies finished the first half having made just 5 of 15 free throws including 1/6 from Meah. The UW center returned to the starting lineup but looked like someone recovering from an ankle injury as he committed 3 goaltends in the first half and got fouled but couldn’t do much else.
The refs finally got tired of calling fouls on Nevada and Washington had 3 very debatable block/charge calls go against them on offense. The latter was the most egregious and gave PG Sahvir Wheeler his 3rd personal foul with a few minutes left in the half as Nevada opened up a 41-25 advantage.
In the final 75 seconds of the half Paul Mulcahy finally hit a 3-pointer and Keion Brooks Jr. made his first basket since the dunk in the opening minutes to end the half on a small 5-0 run and make the score seem within reach at 41-30.
Washington made a few attempts at cutting into the lead. Sahvir Wheeler made a 3-pointer early in the half to cut it down to 8 and a few minutes later his layup cut it to the same margin again. Nevada answered though with 5 straight points and quickly established a comfortable double digit advantage.
The Husky offense found a spark finally with about 13 minutes left in the second half. Washington scored on 6 of 7 possessions but a Keion Brooks Jr. basket with 9:20 remaining still only closed the gap to 61-54. Once again though Nevada answered and quickly ballooned the lead back out to 16 points and seemingly putting the game out of reach. Sahvir Wheeler picked up his 4th foul and committed a technical out of frustration poking at the ball after the play to foul out.
Out of desperation though the Huskies went to a full-court press with Franck Kepnang guarding the rim and Koren Johnson, Mulcahy, Wood, and Brooks swarming. Nevada got open shots against it but missed them which allowed UW numbers in transition and the Huskies finally strung together 4 made shots in 5 possessions. A Koren Johnson isolation layup in transition fell and it brought UW back within 7 at 75-68 with 3:13 remaining.
The Huskies had the chance to pull it closer but a Koren Johnson runner was left short and Nevada answered with by making a long 2 as the shot clock expired to finally seal Washington’s fate.
Washington had no answer for 6’6 Nevada PG Kenan Blackshear who finished with 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Whenever Sahvir Wheeler was in the game he would get switched onto Wheeler and back him into the paint for easy turnaround jumpers. When Wheeler was out of the game he would get switched onto Washington’s center and drive past them for layups or easy kick out passes to open shooters trying to help.
The game though was decided at the free throw line where Nevada finished 21/26 (80.8%) compared to a pitiful 9/21 (42.9%) from the Huskies. Washington didn’t exactly shoot it much better anywhere else as the Dawgs were 7/24 (29.2%) from the 3-point range. Sahvir Wheeler had 14 points and 5 assists but also had 6 turnovers and was bullied on the defensive end.
The Huskies get a little bit of time to rest with their next game not coming until Friday. It doesn’t get any easier though as they will take on Xavier and then either San Diego State or Saint Mary’s in Las Vegas next Sunday.