The Huskies had a chance heading into Saturday's regular-season finale to claim the No. 3 Pac-12 seed. Instead, they'll head to Las Vegas as the No. 7, with a first-round matchup against Oregon State on deck.
The Huskies knew they needed to win a game or two in this week’s Pac-12 tournament to secure an at-large NCAA tournament berth.
After a 72-64 defeat to Oregon in Saturday’s regular-season finale, the Washington men’s basketball team may need to win the conference tournament to nab an automatic ticket to the Big Dance.
At the very least, the Huskies must have an extended stay in Las Vegas to impress the selection committee that determines the 36 at-large teams on March 11.
Washington (20-11, 10-8 Pac-12) secured the No. 7 seed and opens with a first-round matchup against No. 10 Oregon State (15-15, 7-11) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.
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“I’m really excited to be a part of it,” UW coach Mike Hopkins said. “I know the kids will be looking forward to it. Like I told them in the locker room, you guys have accomplished a lot and this season is not over. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”
The Huskies had hoped to enter the postseason with a head of steam and a three-game winning streak, but instead there are nagging questions about their résumé.
Since starting 7-3 in the Pac-12, UW finished 3-5 and has beaten just one team with a winning record in the past four weeks.
“At the end of the day, we’ve won 20 games, we have a winning record in the league and we beat three teams (Kansas, Arizona and Arizona State) that were rated at one time No. 2 in the country,” Hopkins said. “We have a good résumé. … We’ve done enough. I think the league doesn’t get enough respect.”
Hopkins should know.
Washington went undefeated against the Pac-12’s top two teams (Arizona and USC) and beat up on the league’s bottom feeders (Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State and California).
But UW was 0-7 against teams bunched in the middle of the standings (UCLA, Utah, Stanford and Oregon).
Furthermore, the Huskies have looked less than stellar at times on both ends of the court recently.
In their first matchup — a 65-40 UW defeat — Oregon held Washington to its fewest points since 1991.
On Saturday, the Huskies struggled once again offensively while shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 25 percent (5 of 20) on three-pointers.
And truth be told, UW’s defense wasn’t particularly good either in the first half when Oregon led 44-29 at halftime. The Ducks enjoyed a 37-29 rebounding disparity, which led to their 17-4 advantage in second-chance points.
“Rebounding part has been an Achilles heel for us all year,” Hopkins said.
Down 63-47 with 10:34 left, the Huskies made one last comeback attempt and held the Ducks to 1-for-8 shooting from the field for the rest of the game.
Washington’s newfound defensive intensity seemed to trigger a dormant offense, which outscored Oregon 35-28 in the second half.
Freshman forward Nahziah Carter sent the 9,912 at Alaska Airlines Arena into a frenzy when he sank a runner high off the glass that cut Oregon’s lead to 65-55 with 5:25 left.
That’s when David Crisp took over.
The junior guard went on a personal 7-0 run that included a layup in traffic, a three-pointer and a breakaway layup to pull the Huskies within 68-62 with 3:46 remaining.
On UW’s ensuing possession, Noah Dickerson cut Oregon’s lead to 68-64 with a pair of free throws that drew a thunderous cheer from Husky fans.
“We got the game kind of rolling a little bit and playing at that tempo, it was really good for us and we were able to get back in the game and actually have three or four possessions to cut it to two,” Hopkins said. “If we could have got that one possession just to get that crowd.
“The crowd was like a jiffy pop. I thought the top was going to blow off it was so good. It’s just one of those games where we just couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”
However, in the final three minutes Washington’s offense turned frigid again. The Huskies missed their final six shots and committed two turnovers.
“We weren’t poised,” said Crisp, who scored a game-high 19 points. “I put that on me. We didn’t get into a set that we wanted to get into to get a shot we wanted.”
Dickerson finished with 18 points and Jaylen Nowell added 12.
Payton Pritchard scored 14 points, Paul White had 13 and Troy Brown 12 for Oregon (20-11, 10-8), which capped the scoring with four free throws in the final 26 seconds.
“We did a great job of fighting back,” Hopkins said. “At the end, we just didn’t execute. … We turned it over and you can’t in those types of games.”
• Dan Kingma and Greg Bowman participated in pregame Senior Day ceremonies before making their first career starts. Bowman scored a layup on the opening possession.