The Washington Huskies (13-11 and 5-8) tipped off against the USC Trojans (16-6 and 8-3) Saturday night at the Galen Center. A place the Huskies have not been able to win since 2017 and only 2 wins in the last 10 years. Washington would battle in a game that saw over 10 lead changes but ultimately fall to the Trojans by a score of 80 to 74.
Before the game even started, the Huskies were dealt with a low blow by the Pac 12 when Senior Guard Cole Bajema was suspended for a play that was later deemed as excessive contact, even though a flagrant foul was reviewed and not called during the game. On the USC side, the Trojans would be missing the Pac 12’s leading shot blocker in Joshua Morgan but replaced with 5 star Freshman Center in 7’1 Vincent Iwuchukwu who battle against Braxton Meah in the post.
On the very first possession of the game, USC would go straight to the Freshman Iwuchukwu in the post and he would deliver with a nice post up move over Braxton Meah to get the Trojans on the board. Meah would answer quickly with a thunderous dunk off of a nice feed from Keyon Menifield. Meah would almost have a 2nd dunk but was fouled by Iwuchukwu that forced the USC Freshman to the bench early on.
Shooting struggles have been an issue for the Huskies for most of the season and would start the same way early on. The Huskies would start 0/4 from three and 1/6 from the field to begin the game, which allowed USC to get out to an early 6-3 lead.
However, the Dawgs would answer quickly and make their next 5 of 7 shots including a couple more dunks from Braxton Meah and a deep three pointer by Keyon Menifield as the shot clock was expiring. The Huskies would go on a 11-3 run and would go into the under 12 timeout up 16-11. Helping build the lead was 6 made field goals on 6 assists for the Huskies and most impressively zero turnovers. Possibly the best stretch of the season for the Huskies.
However, since the Huskies can’t have nice things, the good vibes were quickly gone after a brutal stretch for the Huskies that included 4 turnovers and 6 fouls on the Huskies in less than 2 minutes. Braxton Meah and Noah Williams both picked up their 3rd foul during the stretch and would be forced to the bench with 9:06 left in the 1st half. USC would go on a 5-0 run to tie it up at 16 in that stretch.
The Huskies would answer and get the lead back as both teams would go small with both teams big men in foul trouble. Keion Brooks would all of a sudden be the biggest player on the court and would attack the hoop to score a couple buckets and help give Washington a 20-16 lead.
Unfortunately, the Huskies would go cold again and led to a 15-2 USC run to give the Trojans a 31 to 22 lead with 3:06 left in the 1st half. The small lineup for the Trojans helped them get out in transition and the Washington misses would turn into 2 points quickly for USC. Keion Brooks had what seemed to be a very makeable layup but missed it long. USC would quickly turn that miss into a transition dunk the other end before the Huskies could set up their defense. A big 4-0 swing that has been too common this season for the Huskies.
The Huskies would come back again with a Keyon Menifield three in one of the better possessions of the game (and the season) for the Huskies. The ball was moving from one side to the other as 4 Huskies touched the ball before Menifield drained the 3-pointer. Menifield would add two more Free throws to get the Huskies back within 5 but Tre White would score on a jumper to help close out the half. White would lead the Trojans with 14 points in the 1st half and scored the last 8 points for USC.
Keyon and Keion would lead the Huskies with 9 and 8 points a piece but Brooks would go cold late in the half missing a few shots and a couple of free throws. Brooks appeared to be a little fatigued playing 19 minutes and playing the post. The Huskies finished the half shooting 1/10 and struggled to close out another half.
After the hot start of 6 assists and 0 turnovers, the Huskies would turn it over 7 times and only add 1 assist in the last 10 minutes of the half. A true Jekyll and Hyde performance in the first 20 minutes of the game. However, Braxton Meah and Noah Williams were both sitting the final 10 minutes with foul trouble.
The Second Half Sees Multiple Lead Changes
In a game of several runs by both teams it was only natural for the Huskies to go on an 8-0 run to start the 2nd half, led by the defense forcing a couple of steals. The Huskies also went straight to Braxton Meah to start the half and showed off a nice left handed hook shot to get the Huskies on the board. Keyon Menifield and PJ Fuller would both add a couple of transition layups and all of a sudden, the Huskies are up 35 to 34.
The action would pick up after the under-16 timeout as there would be several lead changes and high paced play by both teams. Another steal for the Huskies would lead to another PJ Fuller layup to give UW a 40-38 lead. The Trojans would answer each time the Huskies scored to tie it up for the 8th time of the game. Keyon Menifield would score again inside but Braxton Meah would pick up his 4th foul with 12:09 left in the game, a critical moment in the game. It was the 3rd foul on Meah going after a loose ball away from the basket.
The Huskies would keep the defensive pressure going and score on another PJ Fuller layup to give the Huskies at 48 to 44 lead. Drew Peterson would quickly answer with a 3-pointer and would start another 7-0 run for the Trojans.
Trouble would come again for the Huskies with 8:17 left as Braxton Meah fouls out battling for position with Vincent Iwuchuckwu. Incidentally, Iwuchuckwu would be called for a technical foul on the same play but was considered after the play. Brooks would hit 2 free throws to cut the Trojan lead to 51 to 50.
Washington would keep on pushing forward with Meah on the bench. PJ Fuller would score on a strong drive to the hoop to give the Huskies a 54 to 53, the 9th lead change of the game. Freshman Kobe Johnson would score an And 1 to give USC the lead right back and a Keyon Menifield turnover would lead to another Tre White bucket to give the Trojans a 58 to 44 lead with 5:21 left.
Once again, the Huskies would answer with a Keyon Menifield 3-pointer to pull within one point. The Huskies were able to get a stop and found Keion Brooks in the post who quickly kicked it out to Menifield again for a 3-pointer to give the Huskies a 60 to 58 lead. USC would again go on a 5-0 run as Kobe Johnson hit a big 3-pointer on transition after a Noah Williams missed layup to give USC a 63 to 60 lead.
The Tre White show would continue after an acrobatic follow up to a rebound to give USC a 65 to 60 lead and gave White a career high 22 points. The other freshman Kobe Johnson would hit his 2nd big 3-pointer late in the game and leading scorer for USC this season, Boogie Ellis would add another layup to put the game ultimately away with a 70 to 62 lead.
The Huskies would have one last flurry by going on a quick 5-0 run and forced a turnover that saw Jamal Bey with a chance to score inside but was stripped away. A chance to get it back within 3 but quickly moved back to 7 points after a pair of Kobe Johnson free throws. The Trojans would hit 10/10 free throws in the last minute of the game to hold the lead and would go on to win by a score of 80 to 74.
It was a gritty effort by the Huskies and gave the 10.5 point favored Trojans a scare but too many ill-timed turnovers and mistakes ultimately cost the Huskies at the end. If you’re looking for any positives, it was one of the Huskies better efforts of the season against a top 50 NET team, that was without 2nd leading scorer Cole Bajema and Braxton Meah for the final 9 minutes of the game (fouled out). However, too many mistakes that has cost the Huskies all season showed up at the worst possible times.
After shooting only 30% in the 1st half, the Huskies would shoot 60% in the 2nd half to almost pull off the upset. The Huskies saw four scorers in double digits, led by Keion Brooks with 22 points and 12 rebounds on 5-13 shooting (11-13 FT). Keyon Menifield, who was held scoreless versus UCLA, bounced back in a big way with 21 points and 4 assists (4/6 from 3). The Huskies would also get production from Braxton Meah (11 points in 19 minutes) in limited minutes, Jamal Bey (10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals) and PJ Fuller (8 points in the 2nd half).
The Huskies would only shoot 5 threes in the 2nd half (6 of 17 overall) and all of those came in the final 5 minutes. This would be the first game in 10 games the Huskies would not make 7 threes in a game, which was a new Huskies single season record in history surprisingly.
The Huskies also did a good job defending Boogie Ellis (4-14) and Drew Peterson (4-14) but it was the USC Freshman that hurt the Huskies the most. Freshman Tre White finished with a career high with 22 points and 8 rebounds and Kobe Johnson also hit a career high with 21 points.
The Huskies (13-12 and 5-9) get a week off and travel to Pullman next Saturday for an important road contest against state rival Washington State Cougars (10-15 and 5-9). Senior Point Guard and former Cougar Noah Williams will make his debut as an opposing player in Pullman.