Little time will be afforded the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team to repair the defensive lapses that plagued them during Friday night’s porous second-half effort in a loss at California.
With the Stanford Cardinal awaiting a Sunday night matchup at Maples Pavilion (7 p.m., ESPNU), the Huskies have to find a fix in a hurry.
“We have to figure it out,” junior forward Jernard Jarreau said, “like, immediately.”
They should be concerned, too, about their 3-for-11 shooting clip from beyond the 3-point arc, a figure that is in line with their 31.9 percent effort for the season, which ranks 11thin the Pac-12.
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But the Huskies were most insistent after allowing 54 second-half points during their 81-76 loss at Cal that defensive miscues were again their undoing, same as in last week’s shocking home loss to Stony Brook.
Those mistakes were especially damaging Friday because they allowed Jordan Mathews to make 5 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line. And that was somewhat surprising after UW limited Cal to 27 points and 31.6 percent shooting before halftime.
“We had too many defensive breakdowns in the second half,” said sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who approached a triple-double Friday by scoring 19 points, grabbing eight rebounds and distributing nine assists. “They shot 60 percent from the field in that half, which is obviously way too high, and a lot of that was due to our lack of communication and lack of execution of our defensive game plan.”
Said Jarreau: “We got away from our defensive strategy and game plan, and that allowed those guys to get a lot of 3-pointers.”
Similar errors could cost them against Stanford, which ranks third in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.5 and features one of the league’s best scoring guards in Chasson Randle.
The Cardinal scored one of the Pac-12’s most impressive nonleague victories on Dec. 23 by winning at then-No. 9 Texas in overtime, 74-71, and began conference play Friday with a 71-56 thumping of Washington State.
Stanford will be without second-leading rebounder Reid Travis, a heralded freshman forward from Minnesota who is out indefinitely with a stress fracture. But UW’s front line — and shot-blocking savant Robert Upshaw — will have to contend with an improved Stefan Nastic, Stanford’s 6-foot-10 center who has stepped into a larger role this season and is averaging 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
“They’re a physical team on the defensive end and they can knock down shots,” said Jarreau, who tied a season-high with 12 points against California. “And of course they have one of the best point guards in the Pac-12 (Randle). He’s pretty good at attacking. We just need to focus on our game plan on him and we’ll be good to go.”
In some ways, the Huskies need to salvage a split of this road trip to convince fans that they’re still on track for a possible NCAA tournament berth, given their defensive struggles their past two games.
But Williams-Goss said there won’t be any additional pressure due simply to Friday night’s loss at Cal.
“I wouldn’t say extra pressure, but we definitely want to come away with a split,” Williams-Goss said. “There’s no question about it, we don’t want to come out here and drop two. All our focus and energy is trying to get this game. We know it’s a long conference season, and we’re going to try to get as many as we can.”
They need to get this one first.