Washington ranks 269th among 351 NCAA Division I teams in defensive efficiency. The Huskies play at Colorado on Thursday night.
The admission didn’t go unnoticed because it explains — in essence — why coach Lorenzo Romar has struggled to fix the problems plaguing the Washington men’s basketball team.
During the Husky heydays when he led the team to six NCAA tournaments, UW would unleash a full-frontal assault on opposing teams while tormenting them with an unrelenting man-to-man defensive attack.
Those days are over because Washington doesn’t have the personnel to execute the defensive schemes that used to be the defining trait of Husky basketball.
“We thought we did early on, but I don’t think (we do),” Romar admitted. “This same team a little bit later with some more experience would be closer to being able to do that. But at this stage with this team how we are, it’s just harder for this group to do it.”
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The defensive shortcomings were apparent early in the season when the Huskies surrendered 103 points to Division II Western Washington in a six-point win in the November exhibition opener.
Yale and Gonzaga scored 98 points against UW in blowout nonconference victories, which prompted the Huskies to adopt a 2-3 zone since Pac-12 play began Jan. 1.
However, Washington’s defensive futilities hit a new nadir when UCLA throttled the Huskies 107-66 last Saturday. It was the most points allowed and largest margin of defeat during Romar’s 15-year tenure at Montlake.
“Everything you do is predicated on your defense providing something for you, providing a service for you, so to speak,” Romar said. “If that isn’t happening, it puts a lot of pressure in every other area for you to be almost perfect.
“When we’re playing defense the way we’re supposed to be playing defense, you can have some margin for error in some other areas because the defense can cover for it. But if we’re not playing that then it puts a strain on every other area. It makes it tough.”
Washington is allowing 80.8 points per game, 11th in the Pac-12. UW ranks 269th among 351 NCAA Division I teams in defensive efficiency, according to basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy.
The Huskies’ reliance upon a zone defense is similar to the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, which had been described by Romar during the offseason as a time when “we had to do things that was outside of our nature.”
UW finished 17-15 and 16-15, respectively, those seasons.
Washington returned to a man-to-man defense in 2015-16 and posted a 19-15 record.
However this season, the Huskies (9-14, 2-9 in Pac-12) have regressed. Making matters worse, 6-foot-9 senior center Malik Dime is still out after missing eight games due to a broken pinkie.
“We’ve made all sorts of adjustments this year in how we’ve tried to play defensively,” Romar said. “We’re just still waiting to get to that point to where we just play the right way consistently.
“I did think we were making progress up until the UCLA game. So we have to get back to where we were before the UCLA game. We can’t take that UCLA game and have that define everything that we’re doing. Like that’s the team we are because that wasn’t the team we are.”
Time is running out on Washington, which appears headed to its first losing season since Romar went 10-17, 5-13 during his first season in 2002-03.
The Huskies play five of their remaining seven regular-season games on the road, including Thursday’s 7 p.m. contest at Colorado (13-11, 3-8).
The last time UW won a game, star freshman point guard Markelle Fultz scored a career-high 37 points to overcome a 17-point deficit and carry them to a comeback victory in overtime against the Buffaloes.
That was three weeks ago.
Since then, Washington has lost straight five games and fallen into a sinkhole.
During the losing streak, Fultz has averaged 23.8 points while the Huskies have been outscored by an average of 18.6.
“He does not have to be Superman,” Romar said. “But we all have to be on the same page on the same night.”
• Fultz was named one of 20 finalists for the John Wooden R. Award, which is given to the nation’s top player.