The dream didn’t quite die in Pullman. But that’s where it began to get sick.
With an opportunity to improve to 6-3 in Pac-12 Conference play, with a chance to pull into a second-place tie at the halfway point of the conference schedule, with optimism increasing and belief present, the Washington Huskies traveled east for a Feb. 1 game at struggling, hapless Washington State.
And they lost.
The Huskies (15-13, 7-8 in Pac-12) also lost four of their next five games, three of them on the road, and fell out of contention for an NCAA tournament berth.
“We were in pretty good shape up until that point,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Maybe mentally it took a little out of us. But at the same time, it was on the road. That was consistent that we, since Arizona, just didn’t do well on the road, until more recently. … But during that stretch, we weren’t very good on the road.”
The Huskies get a second crack at WSU on Friday, a 7:30 p.m. game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion that begins a three-game homestand to end the regular season.
The stakes aren’t as high this time. The best UW can hope for, aside from winning the Pac-12 tournament, is probably an NIT bid. And the Cougars (9-18, 2-13) haven’t won since they beat the Huskies, with speculation now rampant that coach Ken Bone might not keep his job once the season ends.
But they can at least take some bit of solace in being the team that began the derailment of UW’s (slim) NCAA tournament hopes.
“It brought us down a little bit, I would say,” said UW guard Andrew Andrews. “After that we kind of went on a little downward skid of just losing games. But we’ve been practicing and have had three days to prepare for them, so I think we’ll be ready this time around.”
It was the way the Huskies lost that game, 72-67, that was most foreboding. UW led by eight points with 13:45 to play, and appeared poised to pull away. But then the Cougars ripped off a 24-5 run, led by as many as 11 points, and held on down the stretch to send the Huskies home with a deflating loss.
Long scoring runs by their opponents wound up a theme of each of the Huskies’ next three losses.
Andrews said he doesn’t believe the loss to WSU itself was what led to UW’s losing skid.
“I just think it was more of the way we lost, or how we were playing in all the other games adding up to it,” Andrews said.
Washington does enter Friday’s game with some positive momentum. The Huskies snapped a seven-game road losing streak on Saturday, winning 86-62 at Oregon State, and can finish with a 10-8 conference record if they win their final three games at home.
UCLA and USC visit Hec Ed next weekend. For now, they’re focused on doing something they felt they should have done a month ago: beating a WSU team that hasn’t won a Pac-12 road game since Jan. 26, 2013.
The rivalry doesn’t seem to be of much concern.
“For me, it’s about winning and getting in the best possible position for the (Pac-12) tournament,” said UW senior guard C.J. Wilcox. “It just happens that we’re playing Wazzu (on Friday).”
Washington State (9-18, 2-13 Pac-12 conference) at Washington (15-13, 7-8)
7:30 P.M., HEC EDMUNDSON PAVILION, SEATTLE
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 950-AM.
The series: Washington leads, 177-101.
Name Pos., Ht., PPG, RPG, APG, FG%, FT%
- Royce Woolridge G, 6-3, 7.2, 1.9, 2.8, 38.8, 56.7
- DaVonté Lacy G, 6-4, 19.3, 4.0, 1.4, 45.3, 82.3
- Dexter Kernich-Drew G, 6-5, 6.0, 1.7, 0.8, 38.1, 69.0
- D.J. Shelton F, 6-10, 10.0, 9.1, 1.4, 40.4, 80.0
- Jordan Railey C, 7-0, 3.0, 2.4, 0.7, 38.8, 37.8
Name Pos., Ht., PPG, RPG, APG, FG%, FT%
- Nigel Williams-Goss G, 6-3, 13.3, 4.1, 4.1, 46.5, 70.8
- Andrew Andrews G, 6-2, 12.1, 3.8, 2.6, 37.1, 79.8
- C.J. Wilcox G, 6-5, 18.6, 3.8, 2.6, 45.9, 85.4
- Desmond Simmons F, 6-7, 5.1, 4.3, 0.6, 45.2, 75.0
- Shawn Kemp Jr. F, 6-9, 4.3, 1.8, 0.1, 57.1, 66.7
Scouting report: A miserable season grinds toward its conclusion for Washington State, which has lost six consecutive games since beating the Huskies on Feb. 1 in Pullman. Very little has gone right since, aside from a couple of close calls in losses to California and Colorado. Curtis High alum and WSU leading scorer DaVonté Lacy is healthy again after missing six games due to a rib injury, and the Cougars’ best chance at victory is always to hope that Lacy can catch fire from the outside. ... WSU is the worst offensive team in the conference, in terms of field-goal percentage, by a long way. The Cougars shoot 40.6 percent from the field. The next-lowest output is 44.3 percent, by USC. ... WSU’s defense hasn’t been great, either, though it’s been better than the Huskies’ – the Cougars allow opponents to shoot 44.8 percent from the field, while UW checks in at 48.0 percent, the worst mark in the conference. ... WSU has won at Hec Ed just once in the last five seasons – in 2011 – after winning in 2006, 2007 and 2008. ... Que Johnson, a part-time starting guard, worked out in Tacoma prior to joining WSU’s program in 2012-13.