The Huskies had their losing streak extended to six games after a 79-67 defeat at Washington State on Sunday.
After starting 10-2, Washington is 2-10 over the past 12 games to even its record at 12-12 overall and falling to last place in the Pac-12 at 2-9.
Here are three impressions.
ELLEBY PUT IN WORK
“Whenever I took a shot, it did feel good,” said WSU sophomore star CJ Elleby, who finished with a career-high 34 points.
The 6-foot-6 forward, who starred at Cleveland High in Seattle and chose WSU over UW, converted 9 of 16 field goals, including 6 of 9 three-pointers while connecting on all 10 of his free throws. He also had 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 37 minutes.
Elleby’s 34 points were the second most the Huskies have allowed in the Mike Hopkins era.
Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison torched UW for 39 points in the first round of the 2018 NIT, but the Huskies managed to hold on for a 77-74 victory.
The Huskies have surrendered at least 30 points six times during the past three years under Hopkins while posting a 3-3 record.
Elleby, who admitted he was extra motivated to play his hometown team, was just too good Sunday.
He desperately wanted to get a victory against UW before finishing his WSU career – it’s widely speculated Elleby will test the NBA draft waters for a second straight year and is unlikely to return to school – while making amends for his previous lackluster performance against the Huskies.
Elleby scored five points during Washington’s 72-70 victory last February in Pullman.
In his first game against UW, Elleby poured in 26 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including three three-pointers and 10 rebounds in an 85-67 Huskies victory on Jan. 5, 2019 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Elleby’s big night didn’t surprise some Huskies who grew up playing with and against him.
“I knew he was capable of it,” UW freshman Jaden McDaniels said. “We were trying to hold him to way less than he had. But great players do good things and that’s what he did. He’s a good hooper and that’s what he did tonight. He hooped.”
THE DEFENSE IS BROKEN
Something happened to the Huskies and their once-vaunted 2-3 zone defense two weeks ago during their trip to Colorado.
Before facing the Buffaloes, Washington held seven Pac-12 teams to an average of 59.3 points per game. During the stretch, opponents shot 34.8% from the field and 26.8% on three-pointers.
It needs to be noted UW had a 2-5 record, but at least the games were competitive and many were decided in the final minutes.
In the past four games, Washington is allowing an average of 79.3 points. During the stretch, opponents are shooting 43% from the field and 33% on three-pointers.
We’ve noted several times in this space the Huskies can’t win when the defense doesn’t function properly. Washington is 1-7 this season when allowing at least 75 points.
On Sunday, the Huskies gave up 79 points during a game in which the Cougars had long scoring droughts and missed 10 of their final 12 field goals.
The Huskies could have survived Elleby’s onslaught if they weren’t outrebounded 44-33.
Washington was undone by a litany of mistakes on both ends of the court. The Huskies fouled too much and sent the Cougars to the free-throw line 28 times, where they made 24.
And UW committed 17 turnovers that led to 27 points for WSU.
WHERE’S THE OFFENSIVE SYMMETRY?
Give credit to McDaniels, who came off the bench for the third time in the past four games, and for most of the night was the best player on the court for UW.
The 6-9 forward finished with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting, including two three-pointers. He also had six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals while committing five turnovers in 35 minutes.
Considering his all-around production and minutes played, it’s unclear why McDaniels doesn’t start. And despite not starting, he scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half.
Also, props to McDaniels, who answered tough questions after the game in light of the criticism toward him and the Huskies.
“We know we’re good enough,” he said. “We don’t walk around with our heads down. We know it’s still wide open and we have a chance. We just got to produce and do what Coach wants us to do.”
Nahziah Carter played just 5½ minutes in the first half while saddled with two fouls and went scoreless with one shot attempt.
In the second half, Carter exploded for a team-high 18 points while connecting on 7 of 9 shots.
There hasn’t been much offensive symmetry between McDaniels and Carter, who are two of UW’s most explosive performers.
Seemingly, they take turns scoring and their games don’t appear to complement each other, which is strange because McDaniels is a gifted playmaker and passer while Carter is a high-flying acrobat who can finish plays with flair.
The apparent disconnect between McDaniels and Carter becomes troublesome in games when Isaiah Stewart is swarmed by double- and triple-teams in the post and finishes with 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting and a career-high-tying five turnovers.
On Sunday, Washington had nine assists on 25 field goals and in its previous outing – an 87-83 loss to Arizona State – the Huskies had 10 assists on 24 field goals.
Freshman point guard Marcus Tsohonis made his second straight start and has scored 19 and 13 points in the past two games. He has made an immediate impact with his scoring, but it’s becoming clear Tsohonis lacks the experience to effectively run the offense and create shots for others.
Freshman guard RaeQuan Battle started the previous outing and scored 10 points, but played just 48 seconds Sunday. Hopkins said he opted for a defensive-oriented lineup that included Jamal Bey and Tsohonis starting in the backcourt.
The Huskies didn’t need Battle’s scoring, but his absence certainly didn’t improve the defense.