SEATTLE – It was only two weeks ago when the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team was unbeaten, ranked 13th in both major polls, and looking like a contender for a spot in the top tier of the Pac-12 standings.
That outlook has waned at least a little.
The Huskies are now 11-3. They’re no longer ranked. They’re on a three-game losing streak. And that makes Saturday’s 12 p.m. game against the Washington State Cougars at Hec Edmundson Pavilion that much more interesting. The Cougars, a rebuilding bunch who slogged through an unsuccessful nonconference slate with a 6-6 record, managed to do something the Huskies couldn’t during the first week of conference play.
In fact, WSU was the only Pac-12 team to win a road game last week, beating California 69-66 in Berkeley just two days after the Huskies lost there, 81-75.
So it is that Washington hosts the Cougars in search, still, of its first Pac-12 victory.
“We’re 0-2 in conference,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “So it’s very important that we come out and play at a high level.”
Especially on offense. During their current losing streak, the Huskies have shot 39.1 percent from the field (their season average is 44.1), and, perhaps more damaging, they’ve shot only 26.3 percent from 3-point range. That’s even worse than their already weak average of 31.3 percent for the season.
Senior guard Mike Anderson leads the team in 3-point shooting at 40.6 percent, but he’s put up only 32 attempts in 14 games. Romar wants him to be more aggressive. Freshman Donaven Dorsey from Timberline High is next-best at 38.5 percent, and appears at times to be UW’s most dangerous outside shooter. But he doesn’t typically stay on the floor very long (12.4 minutes per game) due to unrefined defensive skills. Quevyn Winters, a junior-college transfer brought in primarily for his shooting acumen, has cooled after a hot start and has made only nine of his 34 attempts from 3-point range (and at 9.5 minutes per game, he plays even less than Dorsey).
Andrew Andrews is streaky (33.8 percent). Nigel Williams-Goss isn’t nearly as accurate as he was as a freshman, hitting just 23.7 percent of his attempts after shooting 35.6 last year.
So, it’s a problem. Romar isn’t yet ready to classify the Huskies as a poor shooting team. But he seems concerned.
“We have not shot the ball well. I don’t think I can hide that or mask that,” Romar said. “I’m still looking for the day that we come out and we’re shooting a decent percentage from the 3-point line.”
Still, the Huskies’ defense has sustained them during even their roughest shooting droughts. They still rank sixth nationally in field-goal percentage defense, and had a chance to win on Sunday night at Stanford despite a 13-minute, 27-second stretch without making a field goal.
They insist their mistakes are fixable.
“Last game, we felt that we played pretty well. We felt like we kind of got our identity back,” Williams-Goss said. “We thought we played a lot better defensively than we had against Cal and Stony Brook, so we feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Cougars (7-7, 1-1 in Pac-12) likely feel the same after defeating Cal. They’ve benefited from the accelerated development of Josh Hawkinson, a 6-foot-10 sophomore forward from Shoreline who averages 15.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game and has nine double-doubles this season.
“They’re a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of energy,” Romar said. “They’re a team that’s playing like they’re having fun. That’s what they look like right now.”
Washington State (7-7, 1-1 in Pac-12) at Washington (11-3, 0-1 in Pac-12)
12 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 1000 AM/97.7 FM (UW), 710 AM (WSU)
All-time series: Washington leads the all-time series 178-101.
Statistics for 2014-15 unless otherwise noted
Player Pos Ht PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
DaVonte Lacy G 6-4 16.4 2.6 2.4 39.9 77.4
Ike Iroegbu G 6-2 8.7 2.4 2.7 45.4 76.7
Ny Redding G 6-2 6.5 2.0 4.2 45.2 79.5
Josh Hawkinson F 6-10 15.5 11.0 0.6 51.6 80.0
Jordan Railey C 7-0 5.3 3.0 0.8 53.6 53.8
Player Pos Ht PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
Nigel Williams-Goss G 6-3 13.6 5.3 6.7 41.9 70.5
Andrew Andrews G 6-2 11.9 4.3 2.1 34.3 81.7
Mike Anderson G 6-4 7.3 6.2 2.2 48.6 72.4
Jernard Jarreau F 6-10 5.5 5.1 1.4 44.8 60.0
Shawn Kemp F 6-9 10.5 4.2 0.3 62.9 61.0
Scouting report: Ernie Kent’s first year as Washington State’s coach has been choppy at times – losses to Idaho and Santa Clara were low points – but the Cougars are playing better and handled California fairly easily last week. Curtis High alum DaVonte Lacy, now a senior, leads WSU in scoring at 16.4 points per game, but hasn’t been quite as consistent as a shooter as he was last season. Josh Hawkinson has been a revelation in his sophomore season. The 6-foot-10 forward from Shoreline is a double-double machine, averaging 15.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game while playing an average of 31.9 minutes. Hawkinson also shoots 80 percent from the free-throw line. He played only 6.4 minutes per game as a freshman. His matchup with UW’s 7-foot center, Robert Upshaw, should be entertaining. … WSU’s opponents have shot well from beyond the 3-point arc – 37.8 percent – something the cold-shooting Huskies hope will continue.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple