PALO ALTO, Calif. – Nigel Williams-Goss missed the free throw. Chasson Randle made the basket that forced overtime. And the 21st-ranked Washington Huskies men’s basketball team faded thereafter, the Maples Pavilion crowd closing in on them with each miscue. There were plenty of those.
But the Huskies didn’t lose this maddening, 68-60 overtime decision to the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday in the final minutes. They lost it late in the first half and early in the second, when they managed exactly zero field goals during a 12-minute, 27-second stretch.
After two poor defensive performances in losses to Stony Brook and California, the Huskies preached the necessity of returning to their principles. They seemed to accomplish that. They just couldn’t score often enough for it to matter.
“I thought we defended,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We played good enough to win the game, but weren’t able to pull it out.”
The Huskies fall to 11-3 and 0-2 in Pac-12 play, heading home for a Saturday matchup with Washington State – the Cougars, by the way, won at California on Sunday – riding a three-game losing streak after a disappointing sweep here in the Bay Area.
But they had a chance to at least salvage a split. Williams-Goss went to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1 with 13.4 seconds left. Stanford guard Anthony Brown had just made two free throws for Stanford to cut UW’s lead to 56-54.
A made pair by Williams-Goss would have pushed UW’s lead to four points. But he missed the front-end of the 1-and-1, and the Cardinal rebounded. Stanford called timeout with 7.9 seconds left, and designed a play for its leading scorer, Randle, to drive to the basket. He did, past 7-foot center Robert Upshaw, and laid the ball off the glass and through the net to tie the score with 2.2 seconds to play.
That sent it to overtime, where Stanford scored the first four points and Washington scored four points, total. The Huskies committed five turnovers in the final five minutes.
“I think we got rattled,” Upshaw said. “They made some big shots, got to the free-throw line and made the shots when they needed them. We couldn’t make shots.”
Curiously, Romar chose to play Jernard Jarreau instead of Shawn Kemp Jr. down the stretch, despite the fact that Kemp led UW with 19 points.
That decision was made, Romar said, because of Jarreau’s defensive versatility.
But the Huskies were at their best with Kemp in the game, particularly in the first six minutes, when he gathered strong position beneath the basket and used it to score 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Stanford had little solution to the problems Kemp posed, and the Huskies led, 21-11, after Upshaw’s easy two-point basket with 11:39 to play.
Then Kemp moved over to help Upshaw defend a drive by Rosco Allen when he probably didn’t need to. Upshaw put his hand on the ball, but Kemp fouled Allen as he shot, and the 6-foot-9 big man went to the bench with 13:25 left in the first half.
He didn’t return until the second.
Neither did Jarreau, after the 6-foot-10 junior picked up three fouls in just under 12 minutes, and spent the final 9:01 of the first half on the bench. He picked up his fourth foul just 37 seconds into the second half, and sat some more.
When Kemp came back, he continued scoring. After he picked up his third foul with 18:13 remaining, Romar left him in the game, and the decision paid off – Kemp shot 3-of-4 from the field in the second half, and at one point scored seven consecutive points to give UW a 39-37 lead with 12:09 to play. Andrew Andrews added 13 points and Upshaw had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The mid-game drought was key, though. After Quecyn Winters made a long two-point jumper with 9:53 left in the first half, the Huskies didn’t make another basket until Upshaw scored at the 16:16 mark – 12 minutes and 27 seconds later. They made four free throws during that span. That was all.
When the drought began, Washington led, 25-15. When it ended, the Huskies trailed, 35-30. It didn’t help that Williams-Goss left the game briefly to deal with back spasms. He eventually returned.
“We had to kind of mix and match, just kind of play on the fly during that stretch,” Romar said, “and we didn’t have probably our best offensive unit in there.”
Turnovers hurt them. They committed 19, and Stanford used that charity to score 27 points.
Still, the Huskies played defense well enough to hang around, limiting Stanford to 39.0 percent shooting from the field. Upshaw was a big contributor to that effort, combating Stanford center Stefan Nastic while totaling four blocked shots. And after a Williams-Goss floater, an Upshaw layup and two free-throws by Andrews, UW led 54-49 with 2:13 to play.
But they squandered their opportunity to claim an ugly victory, and instead left after 45 minutes of game time with an uglier loss.
“It’s going to show who has the character, who has the fight, who on this team is really going to stick together,” Upshaw said. “Are we going to stick together through these tough times and get over it? Because we’re a better basketball team than we’ve been in these last three games. But we have to go out here and show it.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Stanford guard Chasson Randle scored 24 points and had five assists to lead the Cardinal. He made the basket that forced overtime, and was Stanford’s most reliable player down the stretch.
STAT OF THE GAME – The Huskies went 12 minutes and 27 seconds between made field goals at one point, but still had a chance to win the game in the final minutes.
IT WAS OVER WHEN – Robert Upshaw missed a pair of free throws with 40.2 seconds left and Stanford leading 63-60. It was never a one-possession game after that.
QUOTABLE – “We played good enough to win. The other two games, we didn’t play good enough to win. So I don’t count those two as being part of that. That was another team. Tonight’s team was a lot more similar to the team that we had when we were winning games.” – UW coach Lorenzo Romar on 3-game losing streak
WHAT IT MEANS – After an 11-0 start, the Huskies now find themselves desperate to beat Washington State on Saturday to avoid an 0-3 record to begin Pac-12 play. This loss might be particularly concerning because the Huskies played stellar defense – they didn’t in losses to Stony Brook and California – but were still so lacking offensively that it didn’t matter.
UP NEXT – Washington vs. Washington State, 12 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, Hec Edmundson Pavilion
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple