Washington had blown a 13-point first-half lead in its loss on Sunday to Washington State, yet there the Huskies were, leading by four points after a bucket by Markelle Fultz with 2:34 remaining in their Pac-12 opener.
Which made the subsequent collapse even more painful.
WSU scored the next 10 points — including a pair of way-too-easy layups by freshman guard Malachi Flynn — and the Huskies lost, 79-74, on their home floor to a team picked by just about everyone to finish last in the conference standings.
“It’s a very, very tough lesson to learn for a young group,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said on Tuesday.
“Whatever way you want to phrase it, I think that’s probably the biggest lesson we’ve learned — that man, we’ve got to bring it the entire time.”
It is from that familiar rubble that Washington now must rise to face No. 15 Oregon, the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 title, in a 6 p.m. game Wednesday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
And it is worth wondering: if the Huskies couldn’t summon the necessary resolve to dispatch of a bad WSU team, where are they going to find the athletic and mental gumption required to compete with the Ducks?
Oregon (13-2, 2-0 Pac-12) has won 11 consecutive games, most recently sweeping then-No. 2 UCLA and then-No. 22 USC in Eugene. The Ducks have five players who average double-figure scoring, led by Pac-12 player of the year candidate Dillon Brooks. They are long, athletic and well coached, a veteran group better than any team the Huskies have faced this season with the possible exception of Gonzaga, and that game didn’t go so well, either.
UW sophomore forward Noah Dickerson said Tuesday that Sunday’s loss to WSU feels like “a bad hangover,” and emphasized the need for the Huskies to figure out why they wilt when other teams put together a run.
“At times when teams go through their runs, we just stop,” Dickerson said. “There’s no more excitement, there’s no more clapping, the bench is quiet. Instead of trying to push through that, we kind of fold a little bit. … We need to have more energy when those times happen, because of course they’re going to happen.”
Especially against Oregon, which limits opponents to 38.0 percent shooting from the field — that figure ranks 18th nationally; UW, by comparison, ranks 209th — and has scorers at every position on the floor.
“The whole team’s good. Anybody can go off any time,” Dickerson said. “They’re a really good team. Anybody could have a great game, or everybody could have a great game.
“They’re coming off a couple big wins. Momentum is in their favor. We’ve just got to guard … really have to sit down and say, ‘this man is not going to score.’ ”
At 7-6 overall, it is difficult to publicly assess Washington’s NCAA tournament hopes without prompting laughter. The Huskies rank 169th in RPI, better than only WSU and Oregon State in the Pac-12. They haven’t beaten a team ranked higher than 166th. Their only hope of making the tournament is to shock the Pac-12 with a slew of quality victories. But they have done little to inspire belief that can happen.
Beating Oregon on Wednesday night would be a good place to start, though simply being competitive would be a sign of progress. Romar said he thought UW’s players handled their loss to WSU “relatively well, considering the circumstances,” and hopes they approach the Oregon game with stronger mental acuity.
“No one was pleased. No one was indifferent. We didn’t like what happened,” Romar said. “We had no one to blame but ourselves. But I thought we did come back and tried to get some things done (Monday), and I thought we did.”
WASHINGTON (7-6, 0-1 PAC-12) VS. NO. 15 OREGON (13-2, 2-0)
6 p.m. Wednesday, Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: Washington leads, 189-112.
Statistics for 2016-17:
31 Dylan Ennis, G (6-2, sr.): 11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg.
3 Payton Pritchard, G (6-2, fr.): 7.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg.
5 Tyler Dorsey, G (6-4, so.): 12.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg.
24 Dillon Brooks, F (6-7, jr.): 14.8 ppg, 3.1 apg.
1 Jordan Bell, F (6-9, jr.): 10.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg.
20 Markelle Fultz, G (6-4, fr.): 22.3 ppg, 6.7 apg, 6.4 rpg.
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, so.): 14.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, so.): 10.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg.
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, so.): 12.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg.
10 Malik Dime, F (6-9, sr.): 5.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.8 bpg.
Scouting report: Oregon is the most complete, experienced team in the Pac-12. Media picked Oregon to win the Pac-12 this season after the Ducks finished last season with a 31-7 record and advanced to the Elite Eight. … The Ducks’ rotation includes two seniors, three juniors and a sophomore, and they have players with the ability to create their own shot at every position. That effort is led by 6-7 junior forward Dillon Brooks, whose game-winning 3-pointer in last week’s victory over UCLA is the highlight of the Pac-12 season so far. … Chris Boucher, a 6-foot-10 senior, has started 11 games this season and is the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game. He is also an ace shot blocker, swatting 3.1 shots per game. … The Ducks are among the best defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to just 38.0 percent shooting from the field. … Freshman guard Payton Pritchard leads the team in assists with 4.1 per game, and he is joined in the starting backcourt by senior graduate transfer Dylan Ennis, who was granted an extra year of eligibility after sitting out nearly all of 2016-17 with an injury. … Oregon’s only losses this season were to No. 2 Baylor and Georgetown. … The Huskies have lost three consecutive games against Oregon and seven of their past nine, though UW has won five of the past seven games between the programs in Seattle. This is UW’s only regular-season game against the Ducks this season, as the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule dictates that the Huskies miss their road trip to Oregon and Oregon State.
Christian Caple: firstname.lastname@example.org