. Reid Travis did more than score a career-best 33 points Thursday against Washington. The Stanford star junior forward is the latest example of what’s becoming a troubling trend for the Huskies as they close out Pac-12 regular-season play.
A year ago, UW (18-10, 8-7 Pac-12) was one of the worst defensive teams in college basketball, finishing near the bottom in several defensive categories. That’s changed under first-year coach Mike Hopkins, who has made defense a priority. As Hopkins’ first season draws to a close, the Huskies could end the campaign in the top half of defensive efficiency and points allowed. But as Travis showed Thursday, defending players with length and size remains an issue.
“Every game is a little bit different. Every game poses a different problem,” Hopkins said after UW’s 94-78 loss to Stanford at Maples Pavilion. “Reid Travis is an exceptional player. He’s an all-league player ... He was going at them, he was getting the fouls, going to the foul line and that put a lot of pressure on us.”
Through 15 conference games, there have been 13 times when players taller than 6 feet 7 inches have led their respective teams in scoring against the Huskies. And those players are scoring at a rate of more than 23 points a game.
Hopkins’ 2-3 zone is designed to push shooters off the perimeter while allowing teams to take open chances in the high post. Travis, who was 11-for-17 from the field, knocked down a few shots from that area of the floor.
Those sort of performances have come under a microscope lately with UW losing four of its last five games. UW lost three straight at Oregon and Oregon State and against Utah at the Alaska Airlines Arena. In each of those games, a player who is at least 6-7 punished the Huskies.
Oregon’s Troy Brown, who is 6-7, scored 21. Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle, who is 6-8, had 29 in a double-overtime win. Utah’s David Collette, who is 6-10, scored 22 points. Brown, Collette and Tinkle combined to shoot 67 percent in those games.
Defending players with length is one issue. Trying to score against them has also been problematic at times this season.
UW can point to wins against Arizona and Arizona State when debating how it has enjoyed success against bigger players. Huskies junior forward Noah Dickerson had 21 points and 16 rebounds against the Sun Devils. Two days later, he scored 25 and seven rebounds versus the Wildcats.
More than 40 percent of the Huskies’ offense this season has come within the 3-point line. It’s among the highest percentages in the nation. They’re also averaging 9.0 offensive boards which places them among Top 40 percent in the nation.
On the whole, they’ve struggled compared to the rest of the conference in total rebounding. The Huskies are averaging 33.7 boards, the second-lowest total of any Pac-12 team.
Washington was minus-5 in rebounding with 38 against Stanford. Finding any interior success was only heightened considering 20 of UW’s 26 first-half points came from the interior. The remainder came at free-throw line.
Fifty of UW’s 78 points came from the paint or at the charity stripe. It’s another reason why Stanford was able to concentrate on the paint and come up with nine blocks plus seven steals.
Going into the season, size was going to be a problem for the Huskies. Dickerson, freshman Nahziah Carter and sophomore Sam Timmins are the only players on the UW roster who are 6-8 or taller.
Dickerson is second in points while Carter, who scored a career-high 17 against the Cardinal, has grown comfortable in his role. Timmins, who is averaging 4.4 points, is used more for defense than offense. That said, he’s had four conference games — including Stanford — when he did not record a point.
UW will bolster its length next year when it welcomes three-star prospect and 6-11 forward Nate Roberts.
“I think going into it, we forget how actually long they are,” Huskies forward Noah Dickerson said. “Those dudes are long. Going into their bodies, we’re trying to fade away and things like that. ... We just gotta learn from it.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark
WASHINGTON (18-10, 8-7 PAC-12) AT CALIFORNIA (8-20, 2-13)
1:30 p.m., Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
TV: PAC-12 Network. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: Cal, 84-78
Statistics for 2017-18:
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, jr.): 11.6 ppg, 3.3 apg.
5 Jaylen Nowell, G (6-4, fr.): 16.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, jr.): 11.0 ppg, 3.0 spg.
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, jr.): 14.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg.
33 Sam Timmins, F (6-10, so.): 4.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg.
1 Darius McNeill, G (6-3, fr.): 11.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg.
2 Juhwan Harris-Dyson, G (6-5, fr.): 6.2 ppg, 3.5 apg.
10 Justice Sueing, F (6-7, fr.): 14.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg
24 Marcus Lee, F (6-11, sr.): 12.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg
22 Kingsley Okoroh, C (7-1, fr.): 5.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg.
Scouting report: Stanford’s length caused problems in Washington’s last game. Is it possible Cal could do the same? UW already took the first game of the season series with a 66-56 win on Jan. 11. Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said the team struggled to find its offense while allowing pressure. There was also the fact UW committed to 20 turnovers. ... That said, the Golden Bears are on a four-game losing streak and have dropped 13 of their last 14 Pac-12 games since they opened with a win over Stanford to start conference play ... Huskies junior guard Matisse Thybulle has 85 steals on the year. Thybulle already has the UW single-season record for most steals in a campaign. With each steal, he’s getting closer to having one of the best campaigns in Pac-12 history. He’s tied for 10th and could pull into sole possession with one more steal against Cal. The all-time record is 110 held by former Golden Bear star Jason Kidd, who set the mark during the 1992-93 season.
Ryan S. Clark