In an attempt to pull Washington out of its midseason tailspin, coach Mike Hopkins changed the lineup and received a boost from freshman point guard Marcus Tsohonis, who scored a career-high 19 points in his first start.
However, the Huskies needed much more to prevent their fifth straight loss, an 87-83 defeat against Arizona State on Saturday night in front of 9,006 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We’ve been needing a spark,” said Tsohonis, who finished with five rebounds and two steals to offset four turnovers in 32 1/2 minutes. “It’s just next man up. Whoever brings that spark is who’s going to play. It’s up to Coach Hop who he puts in and who brings it. I guess he felt like it was my time to bring it.”
Isaiah Stewart and Hameir Wright each finished with 14 points, Nahziah Carter had 13 and RaeQuan Battle 10 for Washington (12-11, 2-8 Pac-12), which has lost nine of the past 11 games and remain in last place in the league standings with eight games remaining.
The Huskies trailed 74-61 before going on a 7-0 run, capped by Carter’s soaring, two-handed dunk that cut ASU’s lead to 74-68 with 5:39 remaining.
UW pulled to within four points (87-83) in the final 18 seconds and had a chance to get closer after Tsohonis collected a steal on the ensuing possession.
However, his mid-range jumper was blocked and the Sun Devils ran out the clock after recovering the loose ball.
Remy Martin scored 19 points to lead five Sun Devils in double-digit scoring. Rob Edwards, Alonzo Verge Jr. and Romello White each finished with 18 and Khalid Thomas had 10 for Arizona State (13-8, 4-4).
Hopkins made his sixth lineup change of the season and replaced Jaden McDaniels and Jamal Bey with Battle and Tsohonis.
It was the second time Hopkins has benched McDaniels, who finished with six points on 0-for-4 shooting from the field in 20 minutes.
“We needed a point guard in the game,” Hopkins said. “We really felt like we needed a point guard. The last two games I started RaeQuan he had two of his best shooting nights. It’s one of those things I’m just trying to find the right combination.
“Jaden gave us some good moments in the first half and I just need him to be better.”
The switch didn’t necessarily net immediate gains as Washington fell behind 17-8, which forced Hopkins to use a timeout with 11:46 left in the first half.
At the time, the Huskies were 2 of 11 from the field, including 0 for 8 on three-pointers, and Stewart had not taken a shot.
After the timeout, UW went on a 12-4 run to trim its deficit to 21-20 with 7:25 remaining before the break.
However, ASU never lost the lead and went into halftime ahead 39-33.
The Huskies entered the game with a 2-5 record when trailing at the break.
Washington is 1-7 since losing sophomore point guard Quade Green, who is ineligible.
Seemingly, the Huskies have found a replacement in Tsohonis, but their normally stout defense has surrendered an average of 79.3 points in the past three games.
“We’re in every game,” Tsohonis said. “The chemistry is there for us, it’s just us doing it the whole game. We’re doing it in spurts. We’ve just got to play together.”
Washington outscored ASU 50-48 in the second half, but the pace favored the Sun Devils considering the Huskies are 1-6 when allowing 75 or more points this season.
“The thing that we keep reiterating to the team is we’re good enough,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got to play a little bit better. That’s just the bottom line. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Can’t be a victim. You can’t say this, can’t say that. Everybody has to look at each other in the mirror. Bottom line.”
Washington returns to the court Feb. 9 for a game at Washington State.
“This time off is going to be great for us,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got eight days. We need renewed energy. We need to get renewed physical. We need renewed emotional and mental. That’s what we’re working on.”