Pressure, transition points, turnovers. These were hallmarks of Huskies teams past. The style brought recruits and put behinds in Hec Ed seats. Oregon is playing it now.
Oregon trapped, pressed, switched defenses and drove into the paint. However, Washington did not wilt against the conference leaders. Saturday was not the mental checkout of the prior two games. The Huskies just didn't have enough to beat the 16th-ranked Ducks in a game where neither team could stop turning the ball over.
“We did a lot of positive things and we had a heartbeat,” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said. “If we have a heartbeat, that’s what we’re talking about, you bring forth focus and effort, and then, we’ll deal with the rest. We’ll come out on the positive side more than we will the other if we bring more focus and effort.”
That, at this point, passes for progress. Washington has lost three consecutive games after opening conference play 4-0. At 4-3, Washington is down to fifth in the conference, just a hair in front of 3-3 Cal. Oregon State and Utah each are 1-6 after acquiring their only conference wins over Washington.
Washington's 81-76 loss on Saturday to Oregon was controlled more by the Ducks than that score indicates. Washington trailed by double digits for the majority of the second half and cut Oregon's lead to four with six seconds remaining when Scott Suggs hit a 3. Oregon went on a run when it used a press off a made free throw, a pet move for Ducks coach Dana Altman, and picked up a couple easy buckets. Andrew Andrews, who had a strong homecoming with a team-high 15 points, had pulled Washington to within 3, 43-40, with a jumper. Oregon went on a 7-0 run when backup guard Willie Moore scored on an and one. E.J. Singler made a steal off the press following Moore's free throw and scored. A five-second call against Washington followed on the inbounds, which led to a Singler jumper. Suddenly, Oregon was up 10. Washington would not threaten again.
Washington's turnover against Oregon's press for Singler's first hoop prompted a timeout. Out of the timeout came the five-second call. An egregious sin and too often a problem for Washington this year.
Saturday was also another instance where Washington played with more fervor against a name opponent as opposed to not being with it against a lesser opponent. Andrew Andrews was asked why there was more juice tonight within the team.
"Sadly, I just think it’s the environment, " Andrews said. "They’re ranked. We know they’re good. It’s just a whole different mindset coming in here."
Though, he left Eugene with a better feeling than he had when flying home from Corvallis.
"With that many turnovers, they had like 44 points in the paint, 27 points off our turnovers and we lost by only five," Andrews said. "If we cut those things down it could have been the other way for us."
A few more notes, quotes and thoughts:
> Scott Suggs had a hot start, but cooled. He scored Washington's first seven points, then went 2-for-8 the rest of the game. He had zero rebounds the day after Romar told the press Suggs needs to concentrate more on rebounding. He was the only regular not to have a rebound.
> Abdul Gaddy played an aggressive second half. He had 11 points, drove and worked. Gaddy also went 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point line, something he had not done in a long time. The last time he hit multiple 3-pointers was Dec. 22 against Northern Illinois.
"We’re all right. I feel like we’re confident enough that we can play with anyone," Gaddy said. "We know we’ve got for sure a month and something left. Every week is going to be tough. We just can’t look ahead."
> Shawn Kemp Jr. had a career-high 12 points and six rebounds. He was a better fit tonight against a speedier Oregon team. In fact, as vital as Desmond Simmons has been on defense, Kemp's offensive potential will give Romar a challenge when deciding the lineup. Kemp played 21 minutes Saturday. Simmons played 22.
> Oregon did the best job of anyone this season on C.J. Wilcox. It played him very, very high, chasing him off the 3-point line at all costs. Wilcox was still 2-for-3 from 3, but all those attempts came in the second half. He scored 14 points, tying for his lowest total in Pac-12 play.
> Oregon had 44 points in the paint. some of that was because of transition hoops, but, on the whole, it ended up there much too often.
“They drove us to the middle too much,” Romar said. “That’s something we talked about. We didn’t want that too happen. But they practice too. They work on that all the time. They were the better team tonight. They’re not the 316th team in the country. They’re No. 16 in the country and maybe better than that after this week. They’re a good basketball team."
> Washington went 14-for-24 at the free-throw line. That made it 21-for-38 (55.3 percent) during the Oregon swing. Another way to put that is Washington missed 17 free throws in two games it lost by a total of 13 points.
> Washington's 21 turnovers against Oregon were a season-high. The previous high was 16 from the game against Seton Hall. Washington had 15 turnovers in the first half Saturday.