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Husky Defense Collapses in 95-90 Loss to Utah

Washington let an 11-point halftime lead slip away as they drop to 0-2 in Pac-12 play

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Utah Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies were dealt a tough hand when they had to open conference play with the toughest 2-game road trip in the Pac-12 this season. And they had to do so without starting center Franck Kepnang (or star freshman Wesley Yates who has yet to play this year) due to injury. They blew a late 7-point lead against Colorado and again saw things slip away as an 11-point halftime advantage melted behind a Utah offensive barrage in the 2nd half. The Utes ultimately pulled away shooting 22/32 in the 2nd half for a 95-90 win over UW. Washington drops to 8-5 (0-2) on the season.

Washington started out the game looking very much like they were playing their 2nd game at altitude on the road in less than 48 hours. Both teams missed their first 2 shots with Utah missing a pair of point blank shots and the Huskies settling for 3’s. Utah tried to go back inside but Keion Brooks Jr. went up to tip the entry pass out to Wheeler who raced for a coast to coast layup.

That was the end of UW making baskets for quite a while. The Huskies missed their next 7 shots from the floor as every look was contested by Utah. Washington picked up a break when Utah’s starting center Lawson Lovering got called for his 2nd foul of the game less than 4 minutes in grappling with Wilhelm Breidenbach. UW’s defense did just enough to keep it close only trailing 8-3 before Mulcahy ended the drought knocking down a long 2-pointer.

That didn’t exactly open up the floodgates though. Washington still struggled to get anything to fall as Utah dominated the paint and ended up with multiple put back baskets usually by the same player that missed the shot. The most recent example pushed Utah’s lead out to 20-9 and it looked like Washington would just fade away under the pressure.

The Huskies though went to a zone on defense and attacked the basket on offense which got them back into it. Wilhelm Breidenbach sparked Washington’s big rally. He knocked down an open 3-pointer and then managed to bait Lawson Lovering into shoving him (and with a little acting) drew the center’s 3rd foul. He once more got it done on offense showing off nice hands catching a tough Koren dumpoff pass and laying it in for a basket to make it 20-14.

Keion Brooks Jr. finally got involved at this point. He pushed the pace in transition for an and-1 layup and then knocked down a midrange jumper to tie the game at 22. They took the lead on the next possession as Koren threw a great lob to Meah on the pick and roll which he slammed down.

Nate Calmese became the next unexpected contributor. He missed his first 5 shots from the floor but then on 3 consecutive possessions got open and knocked down a 3-point shot to complete a 24-5 UW run in just over 6 minutes of play.

Utah hit a late 3-pointer to cut the lead back down to single digits and seemingly go into the half with momentum but Paul Mulcahy sprinted down the court and drew Cole Bajema’s 3rd foul with 2 seconds remaining. He made both free throws to send the teams into the break with a 46-35 Husky lead (although Cole Bajema almost made a three-quarter court heave at the buzzer that may not have counted if it had gone in). Washington had 0 turnovers at halftime (compared to 8 for Utah) and a +12 made free throw advantage.

The 2nd half didn’t get off to a great start when UW committed their first turnover and Meah trying to get it back committed his 4th foul. Utah’s offense started out on fire with a Bajema 3-pointer and then a 4-point Carlson possession when he missed a free throw on an and-1 but ended up with a putback dunk. Moses Wood kept things from falling apart as he knocked down a pair of 3’s as well as a mid-range jumper. But the Utes had 15 points in the first 5+ minutes of the half to cut it back to single digits.

The Utah offensive onslaught just continued. UW finally committed a live ball turnover and it led to a runout dunk for the Utes. They hit 3-pointers on the next 2 possessions the latter with Utah’s best shooter getting open in the corner with no one within 15 feet of him to cut it to 64-60.

Madsen hit another 3-pointer that cut the Husky to lead to one point and shortly after they took the lead as Meah made an atrocious decision to contest from behind when he was 100% beat and fouled out of the game on a made Utah layup.

It became the Brendan Carlson show at that point. Washington tried to go with Keion Brooks Jr. at center and his 4 fouls but he could do absolutely nothing with Utah’s talented big man. He hit 3’s, he hit jump hooks, he got dunks. Every time Utah finished a possession without a Carlson basket it seemed like there had been a mistake made. Washington did their best to keep up the score but the lack of any kind of defensive presence made it impossible to overcome any deficit.

Keion Brooks Jr. led Washington with 25 points but couldn’t match up with Carlson’s 34 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists on 14/23 shooting. Koren Johnson had 17 points and 5 assists while Wilhelm Breidenbach had 15 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.

The Huskies return to the court on Thursday hosting Oregon.