Round 1 goes to Arizona State.
Following the 97-64 defeat Tuesday, the Huskies get a chance for payback on Thursday when they face the Sun Devils in a rematch at Desert Financial Arena.
Before then, the Washington men’s basketball team will surely spend the next 48 hours in Tempe, Ariz., making alterations to a porous defense that bore little resemblance to the suffocating unit that allowed an average of 65.2 points in the previous five games.
“It’s about us,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “Part of the message with the kids is if you lose by one or you lose by 70, you lose. The key in this whole thing is to understand what mistakes we made and how we respond to it.
“It’s pretty clear cut what we need to do. We need to be stronger with the ball against these great disruptive little guards. And we’ve got to get back in transition. If we can execute those things, we’ll have a chance to win the game. But if we don’t, we’re going to be in trouble again.”
For context, Washington held California to just 51 points in its last outing for a rare blowout victory.
However, Arizona State nearly matched that total at halftime while building a 20-point lead and cruising to a 33-point blowout – UW’s most lopsided Pac-12 defeat since a 41-point drubbing against UCLA on Feb. 14, 2017.
Still, Hopkins didn’t necessarily pin the defeat on UW’s defense, which provided scant resistance while ASU shot 50.7% from the field and connected on 10 of 26 three-pointers.
“I just felt like we didn’t have energy,” he said. “We were lethargic and they were popping. That’s what happens sometimes. Just a little bit slow and they’re moving a little bit faster. They’re a team that thrives in transition and disruption. … They were able to play their game tonight.”
The game Tuesday originally was scheduled for Jan. 2 at Alaska Airlines Arena and postponed due to COVID-19 complications within the ASU program.
During the Pac-12 rescheduling, the Huskies lost their home game against ASU, in part to accommodate the Sun Devils, who have had six games postponed.
The two games at Arizona State and the regular-season finale Saturday at Arizona, conclude a grueling eight games in 17 days stretch for the Huskies.
Hopkins acknowledged the Huskies are tired, but didn’t use fatigue as an excuse for their 36.9% field-goal shooting and 16 turnovers that led to 23 points.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “We’ve had games where we’ve just been lethargic. It’s a long season. We played a lot of games and sometimes that just happens.
“We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to get them off their feet and get them rest. We’ll be playing this game sooner than later. We just have to deal with it and got to be tough. Execute better and hopefully come out with a win.”
On paper, Washington appeared to match up well with a short-handed Arizona State team that was missing starters Josh Christopher (back), Marcus Bagley (ankle) and Jalen Graham (illness).
Both teams are relatively thin on the front line and rely heavily on guard-oriented lineups.
However, the Huskies were able to hang with the Sun Devils for about 14 minutes before they fell apart.
Washington trailed 30-25 with 6:13 left in the first half when Arizona State blew the game open with a 19-4 run to take a 49-29 lead into the break.
“We just started turning the ball over and we couldn’t stay in front,” said Jamal Bey, who scored 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting and connected on all three of his three-point attempts. “That’s pretty much how it went downhill from there. They just played harder than us.”
In the second half, things didn’t get any better for Washington. The Huskies converted just one of its first 11 shots after the break and fell behind 68-31 with 14:39 left.
At that point, Hopkins emptied the bench and played reserves the rest of the way, and the Huskies trailed by as much as 39 points and never got closer than 30.
Aside from Bey, Marcus Tsohonis (16 points and six rebounds) was the only other bright spot for Washington (5-18, 4-14 Pac-12).
No other Husky scored in double-digits and UW finished with its second-fewest points of the season.
Meanwhile, Sun Devils star guard Remy Martin, who was averaging 24.9 points in the previous seven games, had 26 points, six assists and four rebounds. Kimani Lawrence added 22 points and 12 rebounds and Alonzo Verge Jr. had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds for ASU (8-11, 5-8).
Despite the drubbing, Hopkins is looking forward to the rematch.
“I love opportunities like this,” he said. “It will be the first time we’ve ever done it like this. You have the answers to the test.
“Now you got to go out and execute it. Now it just goes back to can we physically and mentally go out there and work together as a team and execute that game plan and come out with a win.”
Heading into the game Tuesday, Hopkins noted the challenges of playing a team in consecutive games.
“It’s just a chess match,” he said. “It’s one of the things that I love about when you watch the NBA, they might play a team two times in a row in a week. You kind of see the adjustments that are made.
“It’s a chess game back and forth. I think it’s going to be a real interesting opportunity, but something that’s new. It’s almost like when we played in the NIT and they changed the three-point line. It’s just something new. It’s going to be really cool I think.”