The Huskies talked about “playing as a team” and “playing as a one ” following their most recent setback, a 76-62 defeat at No. 23 Colorado on Saturday night.
The postgame rhetoric suggests something is seriously amiss with a team that began the season 10-2 and is 2-7 in the past nine games.
Perhaps freshman guard RaeQuan Battle put it best when he said “emotions are all over the place.”
The Huskies are 12-9 overall and tied for last place in the Pac-12 at 2-6 with 10 games remaining in the regular season.
Here are three impressions.
BATTLE IN, McDANIELS OUT
Mike Hopkins benched freshman forward Jaden McDaniels and started Battle in an effort to inject more perimeter shooting into a lineup.
Hopkins said McDaniels is still nursing a sprained ankle that was injured Jan. 11 at California. But Hopkins also expressed displeasure with McDaniels’ recent performances.
“A big thing for me is we’re playing a certain way and that’s how we want you to play,” Hopkins said. “You can’t force things. You got to play as a team. If we play as a team we have a chance to be really special. If we play one-on-one then we’re just not going to be.”
Hopkins considered starting Battle in place of Hameir Wright, but the junior forward was coming off his best performance of the season on Thursday.
So Hopkins chose to bring McDaniels off the bench in the first and second half.
And that’s when things got strange.
After halftime, McDaniels entered with 17:54 remaining.
On UW’s first possession, he committed a turnover. On the next possession, he missed a short jumper and the ensuing possession, he drew a foul at the other end.
And on UW’s next offensive trip, McDaniels lowered his shoulder into a CU defender while driving to the basket and drew a charging call, his third foul.
He went to the bench with the Huskies trailing 57-37 at the 16:07 mark and didn’t re-enter the game.
McDaniels finished with a season low in points (two) and minutes (nine) while converting just 1 of 6 shots.
Hopkins is considering starting Battle next week and wasn’t sure if McDaniels would return to the starting lineup.
These are interesting developments considering McDaniels, a former five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American who starred at Federal Way High and Seattle Rotary’s AAU team, is projected to be a first-round pick in the NBA draft.
MORE BATTLE, PLEASE
Battle could very well be the next Ray Allen as Hopkins likes to say.
Inexplicably, the freshman sharpshooter spent the first half of the season on the bench and has played more than 10 minutes in just four games.
As a starter, Battle is averaging 11.5 points and has made at least three three-pointers.
On Saturday, he tallied 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting behind the arc before the break.
But it the second half, Battle attempted just one shot in the first 16 minutes. He took three three-point shots in the final four minutes and finished 4-for-12 shooting from downtown.
Still, UW needs to incorporate Battle into the offense in a meaningful way much like it does Isaiah Stewart. (On a side note: Stewart was sensational once again. He finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks.)
Battle needs plays designed for him. He needs teammates to set screens and look to get him going. And he’ll have to adapt going forward because teams are going to take notice and make him a higher priority in their scouting report.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
It’s far-fetched to think the Huskies can revive their NCAA tournament aspirations, but they entered Saturday’s game at No. 48 in the NET rankings despite their disastrous midseason decline.
For comparison sake, Washington was No. 44 in the NET with a 2-5 record in the all-important Quadrant 1 games heading into Selection Sunday last year.
UW is 1-5 in Quad 1 games this season.
The good news, the Huskies still have five Quad 1 games (Arizona twice, at Arizona State, at USC and against Stanford) remaining.
The bad news, the Huskies still have Quad 1 games (Arizona twice, at Arizona State, at USC and against Stanford) remaining.
Until further notice, there’s no reason to think Washington can beat a good team without point guard Quade Green, who is ineligible.