Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar usually pins his team’s losses on its porous defense, which ranks among the worst in the nation.
But after Sunday’s 82-70 setback to No. 10 Connecticut, he said UW self-destructed after a magnificent start because it committed 16 turnovers, which led to 23 points for UConn.
“The turnover story was maybe the difference in the game,” Romar said. “Credit UConn, they have a lot of quickness and quickness out front.
“Some of our turnovers had something to do with them, but lot of them had to do with, I think, our negligence.”
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Romar is the ultimate glass-half-full optimist, but after UW fell to 6-5 he questioned the mental toughness and maturity of his players, citing a trend that began two weeks ago with a 70-63 defeat at then-No. 24 San Diego State.
“I just think we have to mature,” he said. “The same thing happened at San Diego State. We played good basketball in the first half. We were focused. We were dialed in. We were defending. And kind of a similar situation, we turned the ball over a little bit and we kind of let down.
“Right now we are not mature enough to handle runs from the other team, it appears. We’re not mature enough to handle the adversity that comes along throughout your season. Conference season starts here pretty quickly — we’re on the road four out of the first six games — so we better grow up pretty quickly.”
Washington had hoped an upset victory over a top-10 team would erase its early-season mishaps and prove the Huskies could play with the best teams in the country. And for a few minutes, it looked as if UW might capture the signature win that’s missing from its resume.
C.J. Wilcox, who finished with a team-high 19 points, buried a three-pointer from the wing that gave Washington a 31-14 lead at the 7:03 mark in the first half, and the crowd of 7,059 at Alaska Airlines Arena went wild.
However, it took UConn less than four minutes to erase UW’s lead with a 21-4 run and pull even at 35 with 3:41 left. From there, Connecticut closed the first half with an 8-4 spurt and led 43-39 at halftime.
In the second half, UW fell behind by double digits with 12:34 remaining. After trailing 62-48, Washington got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Washington had no answer for Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier (20 points), Ryan Boatright (16), Lasan Kromah (14) and DeAndre Daniels (10).
“Our mindset is we can play with anybody, it’s just a matter of, can we sustain it?” sophomore guard Andrew Andrews said. “That’s just the part that we’re struggling with. We get up big, and as the game keeps going down it seems like we wear down instead of just keep steady or pushing forward.
“There’s no moral victories, but we know we can play with anybody that you put us in front of; it’s just a matter of how long we’re going to sustain that energy.”
Darin Johnson added 13 points for UW and Mike Anderson, the Hartford, Conn., native, finished with 10 against his hometown team.
Washington entered the game allowing opponents to shoot 49.3 percent from the field, which ranked 338th out of 351 teams nationally. Teams averaged 80.1 points against the Huskies, which was 326th nationally.
When asked about UW’s defense, which allowed UConn to shoot 54.9 percent from the field, Romar chuckled.
“This is crazy, (but) we’ve gotten better,” he said. “We’re just not good for 40 minutes.”
• Desmond Simmons, who missed the first 10 games due to arthroscopic knee surgery, made his season debut and finished with five points in 12 minutes.
• Wilcox (1,521) moved into ninth place on UW’s all-time scoring list past No. 10 Steve Hawes (1,516) and No. 11 Louie Nelson (1,504). Next on the list is No. 8 James Edwards (1,548).
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.