For the second straight game, Washington lost on the road to a team that carried a losing streak into the contest.
Before Washington State toppled the Huskies 72-67 last Saturday at Beasley Coliseum, the Cougars had lost four straight games.
And before Utah dropped UW 78-69 Thursday at Hunstman Center, the Utes had lost three straight.
These were supposed to be winnable games for the Huskies and yet they stumbled twice in the second half. Against WSU, UW surrendered a 24-5 run during a nine-minute stretch. Against Utah, it was a 13-0 run during a six-minute run that proved to be the Huskies’ undoing.
“I don’t know, I can’t explain that,” C.J. Wilcox said when asked about the second-half troubles. “It’s just something that happens. It’s been happening a lot to us lately. I don’t know if it’s just our legs dying down late in games or not.”
Washington led 51-49 with 11:25 left. After Utah’s run, the Huskies trailed 62-51 at the 5:37 mark and essentially the game was over. They scrambled and twice cut the lead to four points in the final three minutes, but the damage had been done. The hole they dug themselves was too deep and the deficit was too great.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around. The offense dried up, which is somewhat surprising considering Washington made six of its first seven shots in the second half. But during the spurt, the Huskies were 0 for 6 and three turnovers.
And UW’s defense wasn’t very good either. During the decisive run, Utah converted 4 of 6 field goals, including two layups, a putback and a dunk. The Utes also sank 4 of 6 free throws. Utah shot 50 percent in the first half half and 68 percent in the second.
Washington gave up too much offensively to Utah trio Brandon Taylor (20 points, 8 for 10 FTs), Delon Wright (19 points, five assists) and Jordan Loveridge (16 points and 13 rebounds). The rest of the Utes combined for 23 points. Utah converted 22 of 31 free throws, while UW was 6 of 9.
“We thought we had the defensive thing squared away … and we’ve taken a couple of steps backward in that regard,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Like we were saying when we were in that predicament before we have to fix it and we got to fix it. That has been a pattern.”
After rebounding from a 6-5 start and winning five of the first eight games in the Pac-12, things are starting to spiral away from the Huskies. They’re tied for seventh in the Pac-12 at 5-5 and 13-10 overall. With eight conference games left, Washington needs a strong second-half performance to salvage postseason hopes.
However, lately the Huskies have faded in the second half.
MORE NOTES, QUOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:
— At this point, you have to take the good with the bad with Nigel Williams-Goss. Down the stretch, he was the best player on the court for Washington while scoring 12 of his 19 points in the second half. He also had four of his five turnovers in the second half, including a off-target pass that Wright stole en route to a two-hand dunk that gave Utah it’s biggest lead 62-51. Romar said Williams-Goss suffered a hip bruise that didn’t allow him to practice a couple of days this week and required heavy padding for Thursday’s game.
— For better or worse, Wilcox isn’t the type of player to force the action and willfully take over offensively. He takes what the defense gives. He makes the right play. If he’s covered, he passes. If the shot isn’t there, he doesn’t force many attempts. Normally you applaud that type of unselfishness from your best player. But the star of the team has to know when his squad needs a run. He’s got to realize when the other team is on a run and do something to give his teammates a boost.
Said Wilcox: “That’s my job to try to stop runs like that, but at the same time they’re keying on me pretty well so it’s tough to get the good looks that I like or that I want or even get the ball. We have guys that are capable of making plays. We just weren’t making shots tonight.”
Wilcox finished with 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting. He had six shots in each half. He converted all four free throws. He also had four rebounds, two assists and a steal to offset two turnovers.
— Making his first start of the season, Desmond Simmons tied a personal best with 14 points. Offensively, he’s never been better. He sank three shots early and drained 7 of 8 in the game. He also had six rebounds in 21 minutes.
— Perris Blackwell had difficulty with 6-10 Jeremy Olsen and 7-foot Dallin Bachynski. They wore down UW’s big man while combining for 15 points and five rebounds. Blackwell countered with six points and six rebounds. He played just 24 minutes and finished with four fouls.
— It was an extraordinary performance by Andrew Andrews. You may not love his jump shot, but you got respect his moxie, determination and confidence. Not many folks could miss 10 straight shots and keep shooting. And yet, he was undeterred. After every missed shot, Andrews squared up for another one. He didn’t shy away. He attempted each shot looking as if he believed it was going in. With 3:33 left, Andrews made his first basket on a layup. He should have went to the basket more often. Andrews was 1 for 12 and 0 for 7 on three-pointers. He missed his last shot, a three-pointer. Despite a faulty jumper, Andrews wasn’t a complete offensive liability. He had five of his career-high tying six assists in the first half. He also had three steals.
— The lineup change may have helped Simmons offensively, but Mike Anderson continued to struggled with his jumper off the bench. He was 0 for 2 from the field. Anderson also struggled with three turnovers, which undermined a solid defensive performance that included five rebounds and four steals.
— Jahmel Taylor played seven of his 10 minutes in the first half and hit a three-pointer while Shawn Kemp Jr. played nine of his 15 minutes in the second half while scoring all four of his points.