The end is coming quick for the Washington Huskies.
They needed a win tonight to remain relevant in the Pac-12 title chase. A victory would have kept them two games behind the conference leaders.
However, their 71-60 defeat at USC dropped them into ninth place.
At 5-6, the Huskies have a losing Pac-12 record for the first time this season. At 13-11, they’ve lost six of the past seven games.
It’s only the third time in coach Lorenzo Romar’s 11-year tenure has he endured six defeats in seven games. It happened during his first season in 2002-03 and in 2006-07. Both times Washington failed to make the postseason.
After the game, Romar sounded like a man searching for answers while standing in the cramped hallway outside the visiting locker room beneath the Galen Center stands.
“It just seems like OK we have the defensive thing resolved, now here comes the turnover thing,” he said. “Well we get those two resolved, now something else happens. We just have to all be on the same page.”
Tonight Washington lost because of a slow start, horrendous free-throw shooting and last-minute turnovers. The Huskies fell behind by 19 points (35-16) before they found any offensive rhythm. They were 4 of 11 at the line. And they committed three of their 14 turnovers in the final two minutes, which ruined a comeback attempt.
After scoring 57 points last Thursday, Washington mustered just 60 tonight. It was the fourth lowest scoring output this season.
Defensively, the Huskies were really bad in the first half when they surrendered 40 points and allowed USC to shoot 53.3 percent from the field.
Washington improved in the second half and held USC to 33.3 percent shooting. However, the Trojans got the line and made 9 of 10. They also drained four three-pointers.
Romar believes there’s time to save the season.
When asked why, he noted an improved interior scoring and better defensive performances and Scott Suggs (above), who bounced back from a four-point outing Thursday and scored 16.
“There are things that we can build on from here,” Romar said. “We just have to find that one game where we’re defending. (Where) everybody is playing decently and not everybody having a career night. Just no one is having a bad night.
“We just have to do that one time, get everybody on the same page and we can get this thing turned around to where we have some momentum going into the Pac-12 tournament.”
Washington has seven games remaining, including five at home. The Huskies host No. 19 Oregon on Wednesday. It’s a quick turnaround for UW, considering the team flew home on a a charter tonight and the players will not practice Monday for their mandatory one day off.
That leaves just one practice to prepare for the Ducks, which defeated Washington 81-76 on Jan. 26 at Matthew Knight Arena.
MORE NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— Suggs went 0 for 3 in the first half, but he bounced back and almost carried the Huskies to a win in the second half. He scored all 16 of his points after the break. It’s the most points for the senior guard since he had 17 against Jackson State on Dec. 15.
— Another hot-and-cold performance from Abdul Gaddy. You love the 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting and the four assists. You don’t like the four turnovers. You like Gaddy being aggressive offensively and driving to the basket. You don’t like the fact he didn’t get a free throw attempt and had just one rebound.
— Washington made a strong effort to get the ball inside to Aziz N’Diaye. Normally that’s a good strategy. Tonight it produced mixed results. N’Diaye finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds for his 11th double-double performance. But he had difficulty with 7-0 center Dewayne Dedmon, who had eight points and nine rebounds. Basically the big guys played to a draw. However, N’Diaye hurt Washington with a 2 for 9 performance at the free throw line.
— On Thursday, C.J. Wilcox lost the ball six times. Tonight, he didn’t commit a turnover and had six steals. He also collected seven rebounds, which was second on the team, and had three assists. Wilcox did well to make contributions in other ways than scoring because he was handcuffed for most of the night by USC’s Jio Fontan. You would think Wilcox, 6-5, would have used his five-inch height advantage to overpower or post up the 6-0 Fontan. But the Trojans guard stood his ground. He face-guarded Wilcox and the odd defensive ploy worked. Wilcox scored all eight of his points in the first half. He was 0 for 4 in the second half.
— Shawn Kemp Jr. fouled out with less than two minutes left while setting a screen. It was difficult to tell whether he leaned into the opposing player or didn’t get his feet set before drawing the infraction. Whatever the case, it was an costly turnover for Washington, which was down by six points and still had visions of stealing the game in the final seconds. Kemp finished with six points and four rebounds in 30 minutes.
— Andrew Andrews had seven points, four assists, two rebonds and a steal. But his three turnovers were glaring.
— Desmond Simmons was active inside. He collected four rebounds, including two on the offensive glass. He was 0 for 3 shooting and had a point.