SEATTLE – The final outcome of the basketball game being played before him was already assured, so ESPN wasn’t exactly depriving viewers of quality sporting entertainment when it decided to, for a brief moment, fix a camera on color analyst Bill Walton, who was wearing the tight-fitting, purple-and-white rowing singlet – he also wore pants, mind you – which he added to his wardrobe earlier in the day during a visit to the University of Washington’s crew facility.
The what-will-he-do-next nature of Walton’s broadcasting assignments has already elevated the legendary ex-center to must-see status – depending on one’s tolerance for historical references and hyperbole – and the comedic value of a 6-foot-11 human dressed in a skin-tight tanktop was not lost on those within view of press row at Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Friday night.
The game, also a laugher, was worthy of the sideshow.
Arizona, ranked 7th in both major polls, did mostly as it pleased against the reeling Washington Huskies, who simply never had a chance during this 86-62 rout before an announced crowd of 6,999.
So the Huskies, 14-10 overall and 3-9 in Pac-12 play, are now mired in the longest losing streak – six games – of coach Lorenzo Romar’s 13-year UW career. Five of those losses have come since the Jan. 26 dismissal of 7-foot center Robert Upshaw, the nation’s top shot-blocker, but Arizona’s stock of 5-star talent with NBA size likely would have been too daunting for the Huskies to match under any circumstance.
“They’re a really good defensive team,” Romar said afterward, visibly frustrated by the unprecedented bind in which his team finds itself. “We took shots under duress a lot of times. I think their length bothered us in the first half and we couldn’t generate enough defense to stop them for us to get a whole lot of transition.”
The Wildcats (21-3, 9-2 in Pac-12) used a 21-2 run to open a 31-11 lead in the first 12-plus minutes – mostly with dunks, layups and more layups – played the rest of the game with a double-digit lead, and led by as many as 27 points before it was over.
“It's one of those game where you’ve got to stay in it the whole game – the entire game,” said junior guard Andrew Andrews, whom Romar praised afterward for scoring 18 points and grabbing a career-best 11 rebounds. “So it comes down to a little bit of us just on the defensive end giving them easy baskets to begin with, and they kind of separated from us. So then that final push that we had just wasn't enough, because we gave too much of a lead to begin with.”
Count the ways in which the Wildcats dismantled the undermanned and undersized Huskies: they drove to the basket when they wanted, typically via bullish excursion by 6-foot-7, 245-pound freshman Stanley Johnson, who led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting and looked as if he might moonlight as a fullback.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6-foot-7 slasher, added 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including an alley-oop dunk in the first half that elicited mostly astonishment from the home crowd.
Senior point guard T.J. McConnell picked and prodded his way to 10 points and 10 assists – eight of each in the first half. Gabe York scored 13 points off the bench. Brandon Ashley added 11. The Wildcats scored 46 points in the paint, made 52.5 percent of their field-goal attempts – the sixth consecutive opponent to shoot 50-percent or better against UW – and their defense held Washington to just 35.2-percent shooting.
“We stood with them for a minute,” said senior forward Shawn Kemp Jr., who scored 13 points, “but then they got that run, and we couldn’t catch back up.”
Aside from Andrews’ valiant effort – “he was a warrior, in spite of the game not being close,” Romar said – and a quick 8-0 spurt midway through the second half that brought the Huskies within 11 points at 65-54, there was little for the Huskies to be encouraged by.
Immediately after that quick burst, which energized a still-interested crowd, Arizona scored six unanswered points in 53 seconds, and ended the game with a 21-8 run.
After a single day off, Washington returns to its home court on Sunday afternoon for a 2:30 p.m. game against Arizona State, a middling team the Huskies might have a better chance of beating.
“That’s what we’re looking for – that one win,” Romar said. “Please don’t mistake my lip not being on the floor for (saying) it’s not disappointing. It’s very disappointing for me. I’m just not a moper. There’s not too many minutes in the day that I’m not thinking about this, how to right this ship, get it right. So we’ve got to look for that one. Then we go from there.”
Afterward, Walton welcomed a throng of admirers as he departed press row, standing and smiling for everyone who wanted to take a photograph.
He wore, simply, a shirt and a jacket – no singlet – and politely greeted each awaiting fan with a handshake and an introduction.
As with his second-half fashion statement, he gave Huskies fans something to remember on a night that featured a basketball game best forgotten.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Stanley Johnson was unstoppable for Arizona. The freshman guard/forward scored a game-high 20 points to go along with eight rebounds in 27 minutes. He made 7 of his 10 field-goal attempts, handed out two assists, blocked two shots and made each of his five free-throw attempts.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Arizona achieved a 31-11 lead with 7:26 left in the first half following a 21-2 run. The closest UW got after that was 11 points, and the outcome was never in doubt.
STAT OF THE GAME – The Wildcats outscored UW 46-20 in the paint, an illustration of just how easy it was for Arizona’s players to get into the paint.
QUOTABLE – “It reminds me back in the day when the Bulls put Scottie Pippen on Magic. Just he’s taller, his length is a factor and he is one of the few guards that’s long enough and good enough defensively to at least be there with you. To me, he’s one of the best defenders in the country.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson holding Nigel Williams-Goss to 1-for-10 shooting
WHAT IT MEANS – Nobody really thought UW had a chance to beat Arizona, and that’s pretty much how it played out. The Huskies aren’t used to getting blown out at home, and they’ve always been particularly competitive here against Arizona during Romar’s career. But the Wildcats are simply a much, much better basketball team than the Huskies right now, and it showed for 40 minutes on Friday night. Again: Robert Upshaw’s absence is killing Washington.
UP NEXT – Arizona State at Washington, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15 (Pac-12 Networks)
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple