SEATTLE – They forced too many passes and committed too many turnovers on Monday night, but the 13th-ranked Washington Huskies still managed to match their best start to a season in the Lorenzo Romar era.
It helped that they were playing Tulane, and not previous nonconference opponents like San Diego State or Oklahoma.
But a lackluster offensive effort didn’t prevent Washington from winning its 11th consecutive game, this one an ugly, 66-57 victory over the visiting Green Wave before a season-high crowd of 7,130 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
UW’s student section – known as “The Dawg Pack” – was bolstered by several alumni who were granted free admission simply for wearing their old Dawg Pack gear. Their presence enlivened the atmosphere, and Romar noted as much afterward.
His team, though, looked sluggish. And maybe that was to be expected after a quick turnaround following a big victory on Saturday over Oklahoma in Las Vegas.
“I would not want to take anything at all from Tulane,” Romar said, “but I think we’ve played 11 games, and I think this may be the first one where we just weren’t ourselves. We turned the ball over far too many times. We just weren’t ourselves.”
Indeed, turnovers prevented the Huskies from pulling away. They tried too hard at times to feed the ball into the low post, and wound up giving it away 18 times – well above their season average of 11.5 per game.
“It was sloppy. We were sloppy. We know that,” said sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who scored 14 points and handed out nine assists while also committing four turnovers. “We didn’t play with the mental focus that we needed to. I think some of our intensity kind of waved up and down throughout the game. We had stretches where we weren’t ourselves on defense … Like Coach said, it’s a long season. There’s going to be games like this every now and then.”
That allowed Tulane to wipe out an early second-half deficit of 35-27. The Green Wave took the lead, 46-43, on a 3-pointer by Louis Dabney with 8:52 to play.
But UW (11-0) didn’t trail again. Andrew Andrews made a big 3-pointer and made a layup off an inbounds play to key a 14-3 run that gave the Huskies a 57-49 lead with 4:39 to play, and the Green Wave didn’t come any closer than six points the rest of the game.
Both teams slogged through the first half. Tulane was buoyed by five 3-pointers in that period – three by guard Jay Hook – but made only 5 of its 20 two-point attempts. UW and Tulane each committed nine turnovers before halftime, and the Huskies needed a 9-0 run in the final 1:32 of the half to lead 28-26 going into the break.
Romar described UW’s problem as “mental fatigue” after a hectic week of games, travel and practice, but praised the Huskies for mostly solid defensive play; Tulane shot just 31.7 percent from the field
They also scored 13 second-chance points thanks to 16 offensive rebounds, which is a recurring problem. Romar said boxing out will be an emphasis when the Huskies return to practice on Dec. 26 after a short break for Christmas.
“Our guys will be fresh with a couple of days off,” Romar said. “We will be able to get back playing the way we know we’re capable of. But in spite of it all, I’m still proud of our team to accomplish what we’ve accomplished at this point. I’m not going to let our performance tonight take away from that.”
Shawn Kemp Jr. led the Huskies in scoring with 16 points – he dunked six times – and Robert Upshaw added 11 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Dylan Osetkowski led Tulane with 12 points.
UW hosts Stony Brook at 5 p.m. on Sunday to conclude its nonconference schedule.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Nigel Williams-Goss didn’t play his best game, but the sophomore point guard still finished with 14 points and nine assists in 37 minutes. He also committed four turnovers and made only three of his six free-throw attempts, but eventually navigated the offense through its struggles and helped UW put the game away.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – The Huskies held Tulane without a field goal in the final 5:49 until a harmless 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Andrew Andrews made a breakaway layup that gave UW a 63-52 lead with 2:29 to play and basically sealed the game.
STAT OF THE GAME – Despite their 18 turnovers, the Huskies did shoot 52.1 percent from the field, and shot 63.6 percent in the second half.
QUOTABLE – “It was just one of those nights that we were not mentally focused as a team. But in the future, we think that we’ll bring it, and it will be a different story.” -- UW point guard Nigel Williams-Goss
WHAT IT MEANS – This was UW’s second game in three days, and the first was in Las Vegas. That quick turnaround seemed to leak into the Huskies’ mental focus, as Williams-Goss put it, and their offense looked disjointed as a result. But they still held Tulane to just 31.7 percent shooting from the field, pulled away in the final minutes and improved their record to 11-0. They didn’t play like the 13th-best team in the country, but sometimes simply winning is enough.
UP NEXT – Washington vs. Stony Brook, 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28, Hec Edmundson Pavilion (Pac-12 Networks).
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple