As if the Washington Huskies had not already spent enough of this men’s basketball season as a punchline, they are now making national headlines for an embarrassing action that has nothing to do with poor defense and mounting losses.
Malik Dime, UW’s 6-foot-9 senior forward, has been suspended indefinitely after he apparently slapped two members of Colorado’s student section during the Huskies’ 81-66 loss in Boulder on Thursday night.
A Pac-12 spokesperson said the conference is reviewing the incident.
Dime hasn’t played since Jan. 7 due to a broken pinkie on his right hand, but still travels with the team and sits on the bench. He smacked the hecklers — both were seated in the front row of CU’s student section behind the basket near UW’s bench — after the halftime buzzer.
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The incident quickly spread across Twitter. One of the students, who gave his name only as Brian, confirmed the incident, but declined comment other than to say “everything has been made right.”
The students told BSN Denver that they had been heckling UW’s bench, and that Dime approached them as if he was going to give them a handshake, but instead slapped both of them with one swing.
Dime apologized to the students after the game, both of whom reportedly declined to press charges.
UW announced the suspension on Friday afternoon, after traveling to Salt Lake City for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game at Utah. Not what the Huskies needed, particularly in the midst of a six-game losing streak in a season that long ago went off the rails.
In a statement, UW coach Lorenzo Romar said: “Malik’s actions were inconsistent with his typical behavior. They were absolutely unacceptable, and did not represent the values of our team and the sportsmanship spirit of our conference. We have spoken with him at length and expect this to be a valuable teaching moment. We do not expect this type of behavior to happen again.”
The statement also quoted Dime: “I was caught up in the emotion of the game and allowed my frustrations to influence my behavior. I made a very poor decision, and did not represent my team, my University and my family the way I want to. I am glad I had the chance to apologize in person to the students involved in the altercation, and I am prepared to accept the full consequences of my actions. I look forward to putting this incident behind me and moving forward.”
It has already been a difficult season for Dime, a gregarious and likeable senior from Dakar, Senegal. After setting the school’s single-season record for blocked shots last season with 88, he seemed poised for greater contributions this year. But he broke the pinkie on his right hand late in UW’s 87-61 victory over Oregon State on Jan. 7, and has missed the last nine games (for what it’s worth, he was not going to play against Utah, regardless of the suspension).
Dime moved from Dakar to Columbus, Ohio, at age 18 and began playing basketball. He spent two seasons at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, before transferring to UW. Last month, he officially became a United States citizen.
It remains unknown when he might play again. Romar originally forecast Dime’s return from injury as four to six weeks, though nearly five weeks have already passed and he still isn’t ready. The suspension only complicates that timeframe.
It is also unknown whether star freshman Markelle Fultz, who sat out Thursday’s loss at Colorado due to a sore knee, will be able to play against Utah. Romar said Fultz hadn’t practiced this week as he tried to reduce swelling in his knee, and termed his status as “day to day” after Thursday’s game.
The Huskies struggled without him, committing 14 turnovers in a double-digit loss against one of the two conference teams they had beaten this season. Saturday does not offer a reprieve; the Huskies already lost to Utah, 94-72, in Seattle on Jan. 21. Fultz scored 30 points in the loss.
Utah, though, shot 60 percent from the field in that game with 20 layups or dunks, a performance that led Romar to surmise that “we took some steps backwards defensively.”
WASHINGTON (9-15, 2-10 in Pac-12) AT UTAH (16-8, 7-5 in Pac-12
1:30 p.m. PT., Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City
TV: FOX Sports 1. Radio: 1000 AM, 97.7 FM
All-time series: Utah leads the series 12-9.
Statistics for 2016-17:
5 Parker Van Dyke, G (6-3, So.): 4.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg
15 Lorenzo Bonam, G (6-4, Sr.): 13.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg
3 Devon Daniels, F (6-5, Fr.): 10.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg
35 Kyle Kuzma, F (6-9, Jr.): 15.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg
13 David Collette, F (6-8, Jr.): 14.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, So.): 13.8 ppg, 3.0 apg
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, So.): 9.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
22 Dominic Green, G (6-6, So.): 6.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
33 Sam Timmins, F (6-10, R-Fr.): 3.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, So.): 10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg
(Note: the projected starters for UW are based off last game’s lineup, which did not include Markelle Fultz, who sat out with a sore knee and is considered day-to-day. If he is able to play Saturday, he will obviously start.)
Scouting report: With an RPI ranking of 80th and few quality wins, Utah is fighting for its NCAA tournament life despite its overall record of 16-8. Joe Lunardi’s most recent ESPN Bracketology forecast did not include the Utes in the field of 68, or among the first eight teams out. … The Utes survived a scare against Washington State on Thursday night, pulling out a 74-70 win in Salt Lake City. Collette led Utah with 22 points, Bonam added 13 and Kuzma had 10. … In the first meeting between these teams this season, Utah defeated Washington, 94-72, at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. … Utah ranks 49th in KenPom — 45th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 71st in adjusted defensive efficiency. … The Utes lead the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage against conference opponents with a 51.8 percent clip. They shoot 38 percent from 3-point range in Pac-12 games, but only 63.2 percent from the free-throw line, better than only UW at 58.5 percent. … The Huskies are trying to avoid losing seven consecutive games for the second time in Lorenzo Romar’s 15-year tenure as head coach. They last did it in 2014-15. ... A loss would also drop the Huskies to seven games below .500 for the first time in 14 years. They were 9-16 in 2002-03, Romar’s first season at UW, before splitting the final two games of the season to finish 10-17. … UW hasn’t won in Salt Lake City since Jan. 7, 2012.
Christian Caple: email@example.com