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Free Throw Woes Doom UW in Disappointing Defeat to Ducks

Washington drops to 0-3 in Pac-12 play after yet another come from ahead loss

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

The Dawgs went 9 of 21 from the free throw line in their only home loss of the year to Nevada earlier this season. They once again couldn’t make a foul shot to save...their season as UW went 12 for 22 at the charity stripe including an abysmal 5/12 from 82% foul shooter Keion Brooks Jr. That combined with another terrible defensive effort in the second half was enough to drop the Huskies to 0-3 in Pac-12 play in a 76-74 loss at home to Oregon.

A big part of Washington’s recent struggles during the mountain school road trip was that Sahvir Wheeler wasn’t making his layups that he had in the non-conference. He tried to rectify that right away making Washington’s first 3 baskets on 3 attempts to give the Huskies an early 7-3 lead.

The Ducks kept things close for several minutes before Washington started to find their outside stroke. Moses Wood knocked down a 3 from the wing and then Anthony Holland hit a buzzer beating shot from deep that extended the UW lead back out by multiple possessions. A pair of Koren Johnson free throws put the Dawgs up 17-10 with 12 minutes remaining.

Washington didn’t do a lot of that though the rest of the half (making free throws). Oregon committed 11 fouls in the first half but normally steady free throw shooter Keion Brooks Jr. was just 1/5 from the stripe including a miss on the front end of a 1-and-1. Moses Wood entered the game shooting 93% from the line but also missed a freebie that helped keep Oregon in the game.

Freshman point guard Jackson Shelstad hit a 3-pointer with 4 minutes left that put Oregon back on top at 26-25 for the Ducks’ first lead since it was 3-2. Moses Wood answered with his 2nd 3-pointer of the half (after a pair of Brooks missed free throws) and Keion Brooks hit a shot from deep as well in the final minute to give the Huskies a cushion. Sahvir Wheeler took the last shot and got a spinning layup to go just before the buzzer and send Washington to the break with a 36-30 lead.

Wheeler led Washington at the break with 12 points and 2 assists while Shelstad had 11 points for the Ducks.

The Husky offense started the second half largely in neutral. Wilhelm Breidenbach hit a 3-pointer to keep the Ducks temporarily at bay but Oregon answered in a big way. Anthony Holland tried to charge but didn’t draw the call and Oregon’s midrange jumper fell. The Huskies got lazy on the inbounds pass and it was stolen by Brennan Rigsby which turned into another Oregon basket. On UW’s next possession Oregon picked Wheeler’s pocket and it resulted in an easy fastbreak dunk and prompting a Husky timeout with UW trailing 46-43. and 13:39 left in the game.

Washington got a little offense from Wilhelm Breidenbach put it didn’t allow the Huskies to cut into the lead because of their failings on the defensive end. Oregon made 8 consecutive shots and when they finally missed a shot it was called goaltending against the Huskies even though it appeared Brooks never actually touched the ball.

After a first half when Oregon couldn’t stop fouling, the first call against the Ducks in the second half came with 9 minutes left. Braxton Meah drew that foul on the floor and then was fouled on the next possession causing a missed dunk but also missed both free throw attempts as UW’s struggles at the line continued. Meah drew a line violation on the second attempt but then missed a 3rd straight attempt at the line as his confidence continues to be completely shot.

Neither team looked like they wanted to win for the next few minutes. Keion Brooks Jr. continued to miss the first shot of every trip to the free throw line and Moses Wood had what would’ve been a game-tying corner 3 rim out. Meanwhile, Kwame Evans missed a wide open dunk for Oregon to keep things a one possession game.

Finally though Wheeler was able to find some open shooters who were able to knock down those outside shots. First, Wilhelm Breidenbach canned a corner 3 and then on the next possession Koren Johnson swished it through from the other side to tie the game at 65. Koren Johnson stole the ball on the next possession and was eventually able to knife through the Duck defense for a layup to give the Huskies back the lead with 3:23 remaining.

Oregon got bailed out on the next possession as Jadrien Tracey was pinned down in the paint by Moses Wood and flailed into him with the shot clock running down then hit both free throws. After a Wood missed jumper the Ducks again worked the shot clock down to the end before Shelstad drove and kicked it out to an open shooter in the corner who put the Ducks back up by 3.

Keion Brooks Jr. had a chance to answer and tie the game at 70 with an old fashioned 3-point play but yet again missed the free throw. Moses Wood fouled out on the next defensive possession as he and Jermiane Cousinard both went for a loose ball but the refs determined Wood got there second and their resulting collision gave the Ducks 2 free throws.

Washington wasn’t quite done yet. The Ducks went under a screen for Koren Johnson with 70 seconds left and he made them pay by swishing the 3-pointer through to tie the game once more. It didn’t take long for Oregon to answer as Breidenbach couldn’t recover on the pick and roll fast enough and gave up an easy dunk to make it 74-72 Oregon with 47 seconds remaining as Dana Altman called timeout to set his defense.

He apparently told his team to foul Keion Brooks Jr. who went to the line for a 1-and-1. For the first time all night he made his first shot in the trip to the line and then made the second as well to tie it at 74 with 40 seconds left.

Oregon challenged Brooks on the other end and it paid off as Jermiane Cousinard hit a layup with 12 seconds left over Brooks to give the Ducks the lead. Koren Johnson almost had the ball stolen in the backcourt but got it back and raced down the court. He drove into the paint, drew the double team, and kicked it out to a wide open Paul Mulcahy in the corner. The shot clanked off the rim no good. There was a held ball on the rebound but it happened with one second left and possession going to Oregon denying the Huskies of a second chance.

Sahvir Wheeler ended the game with 18 points but had just 4 assists while Keion Brooks Jr. finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds despite his atrocious free throw shooting. Wilhelm Breidenbach had another great game with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals.

There’s really no way to sugar coat this one. Washington has now lost 3 straight games in which they’ve had a lead in the second half. Oregon shot 61% in the second half in the next game after Utah eviscerated the Dawgs with 60 points after halftime. You could still argue the Huskies have no bad losses from a resume perspective but they’ve completely run out of time to accumulate enough wins to have an NCAA tournament case given how bad the Pac-12 is this year. It would take something like a 14-3 finish to even give Washington a shot.

With Franck Kepnang playing instead of the broken husk of Braxton Meah, there’s a good chance that Washington wins at least 2 of the last 3 games. But he injured his knee for the second straight season and Coach Hopkins can’t use his absence as an excuse for the results on the court.

This team just can’t seem to make the right play down the stretch. And now we’re once again just left to wait and see if the administration makes the move that has to be made when we get to March.