Somewhere there’s a disconnect between Mike Hopkins’ pregame instructions and the Huskies’ on-court execution.
Take Thursday night’s 91-71 defeat at Oregon State for example.
The Washington men’s basketball team went into Gill Coliseum intent on limiting the Beavers’ prolific perimeter offense, particularly Jarod Lucas who Hopkins called “one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, in the league.”
And yet, on OSU’s first offensive possession, Lucas darted out to the corner for a contested three-pointer over Nate Roberts and J’Raan Brooks, who made his first collegiate start.
Seconds later, Beaver star Ethan Thompson knocked down a corner three in front of the UW bench before Brooks knocked him to the floor, resulting in a four-point play and a 7-0 deficit.
Those two plays epitomize Washington’s ninth straight road loss, in which the Huskies trailed by 15 points early in the first half, made a run to cut it to three before the break and never mounted much of a threat in the second half.
“You can have the greatest game plan in the world, but then you have to go out and execute that,” Hopkins said. “We started off the game and lost Jarod Lucas. … And then we fouled a three-point shooter.
“That’s just unacceptable. That’s not the way that we can start out the games.”
Oregon State needed fewer than seven minutes to build a commanding 21-6 lead on three-pointers and UW turnovers that led to layups.
The Huskies answered with a 20-8 run to cut its deficit to three points (29-26) with 5:57 remaining before the break. Oregon State outscored Washington 18-9 to take a 47-35 lead into halftime.
The first-half shooting statistics were nearly identical as both teams shot 5 of 9 on three-pointers, and Washington converted 14 of 26 from the field while Oregon State was 15 of 31.
The major difference between the teams was the Beavers’ ability to get to the free-throw line (OSU converted 12 of 14 foul shots while UW was 2 of 2 before the break) and a 9-2 turnover disparity that favored OSU.
“Sometimes we just try to do too much,” Hopkins said. “That’s when you speed up and that’s when you make some mistakes and they capitalize on them. This was a game that one of the keys was limiting our turnovers.
“They had a nine-possession difference on those turnovers. And they scored on them and it was 20-4. It was a huge part of the game. It was something that we couldn’t do and we did. … That’s just unacceptable.”
After six minutes in the second half, the Beavers essentially put the game away when they went up by 24 points following Zach Reichle’s three-pointer for a 65-41 lead.
The Huskies, which used a mix of a 2-3 zone and a matchup zone, turned desperate and pressed full court to seize momentum during a six-minute stretch while they went on a 17-5 run to pull within 12 points (70-58) at the 8:15 mark.
However, Washington didn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
Lucas hit a three-pointer followed by a three-point play from Roman Silva before Thompson drained another three to put Oregon State comfortably ahead 79-58 with 6:48 remaining.
“We definitely didn’t have any resistance today,” said Marcus Tsohonis, who came off the bench and scored a game-high 22 points. “I felt like we came out there kind of slow and they shot like 50 from the three. So we definitely didn’t execute our defensive plan.”
In the second half, it was a disjointed offensive performance for the Washington, which connected on 18 of 20 free throws while going 0 for 11 on three-pointers. Jamal Bey scored 14 points and Erik Stevenson had 13 on a night when UW leading scorer Quade Green was held to a season-low tying two points and four turnovers.
Oregon State shot 49.2 percent from the field and converted 11 of 24 three-pointers. Hopkins also lamented UW fouling the Beavers on three three-point attempts.
“The one thing that the (matchup zone) is supposed to do is not allow three-point shooting to the level that it is,” Hopkins said “Just not good enough. They made 11 threes, and we fouled three three-point shooters. That’s like making 14 threes in a game. That’s just not good enough. Ninety-one points, not good enough.”
Lucas finished with 19 points and five three-pointers to lead a balanced OSU offensive attack in which all five starters scored in double figures.
It was a dismal defensive performance for the Huskies considering they made it a priority to contain Lucas, who was second in the Pac-12 in three-pointers made (2.3) and seventh in 3-point field goal percentage (42.2%).
“Just take away their shooters,” Tsohonis said when asked about UW’s game plan. “I know Jarod is one of the main guys that we wanted to take away he got going early. He got going. It’s pretty hard to stop a shooter of his caliber when he gets going.”
Hopkins added: “There’s a difference between contesting a shot and taking a shot away. A contested shot — good shooters make contested shots. If you take it away, you got to be able to take it away and stay in front. We didn’t do that tonight.”
The Beavers (9-7, 5-5 Pac-12) also received a season-high 17 points from Reichle while Thompson had 16 and Silva a career-high 14.
OSU’s 6-foot-7 forward Warith Alatishe added 15 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals, three blocks and had the play of the night when he soared above the rim to reject a layup from 7-4 Riley Sorn late in the first half.
It was the fourth time the Huskies (3-13, 2-9) have allowed at least 90 points this season.
“We’re scoring,” Hopkins said. “We’re not defending. We got to defend. If we had scored 71 points a month and a half ago, we’d be jumping for joy. But we got to stop people. We’re just not stopping people.
“We scored 71 points and we missed 11 threes in the second half. The key to this thing is we got to have some resistance on the defensive end. We just have to. And we’re just not good enough right now for sure.”
Washington, which had an eight-game losing streak this season, takes a two-game skid into Saturday’s game at Oregon. In their previous meeting, the Huskies lost 74-71 at home to the Ducks on Dec. 12.