So was that the low point? In a season defined by disappointment, was that the biggest blow yet?
It’s one thing to struggle, as the Huskies men’s basketball team has all season. It’s another thing to get blown out by a team that had lost six straight and happens to be its chief rival.
But that’s what happened Sunday night in Seattle. Washington State trounced Washington 77-62, sending UW to 3-12 overall and 2-8 in the Pac-12.
Getting out-rebounded and out-hustled, the Huskies looked asleep for most of the game. Which makes sense. They can’t seem to wake from this nightmare of a season.
“They were just playing harder than us,” said Washington guard Jamal Bey via Zoom. “We put this jersey on representing Washington. We can’t do that.”
If there was a play emblematic of Sunday’s game, it came in the first 30 seconds. After WSU big man Dishon Jackson scored on an and-one, teammate Noah Williams swooped in to grab the offensive rebound off the missed free throw.
It didn’t lead to a bucket, but it was representative of a team that simply wanted it more. That was evident for nearly all 40 minutes.
The Cougs jumped out to a 12-2 lead and led 38-29 at the half. They led by as many as 22 in the second half, and were up by 20 with less than six minutes to go.
At one point, Washington State was 0 for 13 from three-point distance yet still held an 11-point advantage. It seemed as though one could have run 100 simulations of the game, and Washington would have come up short every time.
Perhaps the most damning statistic was the rebounding disparity. The Cougs grabbed 48 boards to the Huskies’ 28, and had 19 offensive rebounds to UW’s eight. They also forced 19 Washington turnovers (although they committed 18 themselves), and shot 45.9% from the field to Washington’s 38.2%.
After the game, Washington coach Mike Hopkins lamented the Huskies’ lack of teamwork. He said they forced an array of tough shots and failed to play together. Then, when asked what made it hard for his team defensively, the normally loquacious Hopkins gave as blunt of an answer as you’ll hear from him.
“They played tougher than us,” he said.
What do you have to do to make that not the case? a reporter followed-up.
“You gotta bring the heart. You gotta bring the heart. You can’t play cool,” Hopkins said. “You gotta play like every possession is your last — with passion, with pride, and most importantly you gotta play together. And I felt like those two areas, we were just not as good as we needed to be.”
Heading into the game, it seemed as though the Huskies were beginning to turn their season around. They were coming off a two-game winning streak after having beaten Utah and Colorado. UW went a combined 24 of 49 from three-point range over those two contests, and had at least three players in double figures in both. Sunday, Quade Green (20 points) and Erik Stevenson (13) were the only Huskies to eclipse the 10-point barrier.
Bey said after the game that his team had not moved backward. Washington just needed to play harder and more focused in the future. But the nature of Sunday’s loss cast doubt as to whether those wins over Utah and Colorado truly signaled a turnaround. It was just that ugly.
There have no doubt been a host of stinkers on UW’s schedule this year. A 34-point loss to Baylor to start the season, a 15-point loss to UC Riverside two days later, an eight-point loss to Montana, a 23-point loss to Colorado, a 27-point loss to Arizona, and well, the list goes on.
Sunday’s defeat at the hands of the Cougs (10-7, 3-7) seemed particularly demoralizing, though. A team that hadn’t won since Jan. 7 came to Alaska Airlines Arena and embarrassed its rival.
Yes, there is still some season left, and there will be another matchup with WSU. But this one was rough — likely the roughest yet.