The Huskies' 55-47 loss Saturday against Oregon once again raised questions about Washington’s NCAA tournament chances.
All night the sellout crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena practically pushed, prodded and pleaded the Huskies for reasons to cheer.
The 10,000 mostly purple-and-white-clad fans waited impatiently to explode in Saturday’s regular-season final and give Washington a raucous sendoff they would never forget before this week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
However, the Oregon Ducks had other plans.
After an emotional pregame ceremony for UW’s four seniors and their families, the Huskies came out flat in the first half and never found their footing in the final minutes before falling 55-47.
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“They were giving us threes and took them and once we started missing we didn’t try to get out of it or get to the hoop or get it to this guy,” guard Matisse Thybulle said, referring to Noah Dickerson. “I think that hurt us.”
With the exception of Dickerson (14 points and 16 rebounds) and Jaylen Nowell (17 points), the Huskies struggled on the offensive end, where they shot 33 percent from the field, including 3 of 20 on three-pointers.
“We weren’t shooting the ball very well so there were a lot of rebounds,” Dickerson said. “That’s one of the easiest ways to get the rhythm going. Get fouled, but I couldn’t make free throws to save my life.”
Dickerson drew 11 fouls, but converted just 6 of 11 free throws.
The Huskies also lamented a 37-28 rebound disparity that led to Oregon’s 11-3 advantage in second-chance points.
“They played hard the whole game and they didn’t really let up,” Thybulle said. “Got to give them credit for that.”
It was the first home loss this season for UW, which finished 15-1 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The defeat also raised questions once again about Washington’s NCAA tournament chances.
Since winning the Pac-12 regular-season title two weeks ago, the Huskies (24-7, 15-3) split their final four games, including a deflating loss at California.
Top-seeded Washington has a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament and will play either No. 8 USC (15-16) or No. 9 Arizona (17-14) in the quarterfinals.
The Huskies are seeded between a No. 10-7 seed in most NCAA tournament projections and an early exit in next week’s conference tournament could place them on the bubble.
“We’ve just got to win and play our best basketball,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “The score will take care of itself and the season will take care of itself. We’ve got to focus on how do we get better and go out and play.
“That’s what good teams do. We’ve been a good team all year. It’s hard to win 15 games. I don’t care what league you’re in. It’s hard to win 15. Those guys night in and night out: winning on the road, winning against really good teams. In my opinion, they’ve earned the right to be in that tournament regardless of what happened tonight and/or what happens in Las Vegas.”
In their previous three outings, the games were decided on the final possession.
This time the outcome was essentially determined in the first half when Oregon capped an early 10-0 run to race ahead 18-6.
Washington endured another scoring drought and fell behind 24-8.
The Huskies closed the first half with a 10-3 run to cut their deficit to 27-18 at halftime.
It was the fewest points in a half this season for UW, which converted just 5 of 23 field goals and committed eight turnovers.
“I feel like we got some good shots,” Hopkins said. “Some shots we’ve been making all year and tonight we didn’t make them.”
Washington closed to within three points four times in the second half but could never get any closer.
Nahziah Carter sank a jumper and a free throw to cut UW’s deficit to 37-34 with 11:09 left.
However, Oregon answered with a 6-0 run to go ahead 43-34 at the 9:08 mark.
Down 48-44 after David Crisp’s layup, Washington was outscored 7-3 the rest of the way.
Payton Pritchard finished with 16 points and Paul White 10 for Oregon (19-12, 10-8).
The Ducks secured the No. 6 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
“I told those guys you’re still champions,” Hopkins said. “You won the league and you’ve accomplished a lot. We didn’t play our best game tonight.
“We’ve had our salad. We had our steak and now it’s dessert. It’s the postseason. We’ve got to lift our chins up. Have a short-term memory and move forward. The tournament is going to be wide open and it’s going to be really exciting.”
— With five steals, Washington’s Matisse Thybulle tied former California star Jason Kidd for the Pac-12 season record with 110.
— Saturday’s game attracted former Huskies Detlef Schrempf and Dejounte Murray and former Sonics guard Luke Ridnour.
— Washington hosted two 2020 recruiting targets this weekend: Riverside (Calif.) Poly point guard Lamont Butler Jr. and forward Julian Strawther from Liberty High School in Henderson, Nev., according to 247Sports.com.