If there was any sequence that epitomized the Huskies’ performance on Thursday night it was the final seconds of the first half.
Down 10 points against Stanford, Erik Stevenson stole a pass in the open court and raced alone to the other end for a breakaway layup. However, his shot hit the front of the rim and rattled out as time expired.
Making matters worse, Stevenson tweaked his knee during the play and landed awkwardly before crumpling on the court. He limped off the floor with the assistance of two UW staffers and played just six minutes in the second half.
At the time of his departure, Stevenson led the Washington men’s basketball team with 11 points and with its leading scorer limited, the Huskies didn’t have enough firepower to mount a second-half comeback before falling 79-61 at Alaska Airlines Arena – it’s fourth straight home defeat.
However truth be told, even at full strength the Huskies were woefully overmatched by the Cardinal, which scored at will and used its superior size on the frontline to dominate inside offensively.
Stanford shot 57.4% from the field, including 66.7% on shots inside the arc.
“We had some defensive breakdowns and they were able to get 50 points in the paint, which is a lot,” coach Mike Hopkins said. Obviously, we got to do a better job than that.”
Hopkins lamented UW’s season-high 20 turnovers, which led to 22 points. He also took umbrage with a free throw attempt disparity that favored Stanford. The Cardinal connected on 14 of 20 foul shots while the Huskies were 1 of 1.
“I thought we went aggressive 6-7 times,” Hopkins said when asked about the Huskies’ inability to get to the line. “I don’t know why we don’t go to the foul line. I don’t know. You’d have to ask the officials on that one. You’d have to ask them.”
Quade Green attempted Washington’s only free throw after drawing a foul on a mid-range jumper. Otherwise, the Huskies were relegated to jumpers during a disjointed performance in which they shot 32.1% from the field in the first half.
“When we get organized and we’re in the right spots and end up sharing the ball, we get good shots,” Hopkins said. “When we go a little rogue and sometimes we’re overplaying a little bit and trying to do too m uch rather than share the ball, that’s when we turn it over and bad shots come that lead to fast breaks. Tonight we took a step back.
“We didn’t have a lot of energy. Our energy was down. You could feel it. I don’t if it’s the four games in eight days, but the pop wasn’t there.”
Stanford though didn’t lack for energy, which was apparent on another play that summed up this mismatch. Midway in the second half, Cardinal 6-foot-6 guard Bryce Wills sized up 7-4 Riley Sorn and drove hard at the basket despite the UW backup center standing in his path.
Wills went up and over Sorn for a flush – one of seven dunks for Stanford – that sent a jolt into the sprinkle of fans inside the building.
“Bryce’s dunk doesn’t mean a lot to me because I have no idea how to do that,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase joked. “As a player, I never jumped that high. Even with a trampoline, I couldn’t get that high. So it doesn’t really resonate with me. I mean, it looks cool.”
Both teams were allowed 60 families and friends, who sat socially distanced in the upper-tier sections. It was the first time this season Washington had fans at a home game.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they didn’t give their cheering section many reasons to get loud.
“I had my mom and dad at the game and it did feel little different,” backup guard Cole Bajema said. “For me personally, having family members in the crowd boosted my energy a little bit seeing them up there. It was really nice to see some fans again whoever it may be.”
Washington kept it close during the first 10 minutes before Stanford took control and used a 19-6 run to push its 13-11 lead to 32-17 with 3:02 left in the first half.
The Huskies, which trailed 32-22 at halftime, fell behind by 26 points midway in the second half. During the decisive run, the Cardinal made 12 of 14 shots after the break to go up 62-36 with 10:27 left.
During the game, Hopkins wore a commemorative black towel over his shoulder to honor the late John Thompson Jr. and replicate the former Georgetown coach’s signature sideline look.
However, if this game was a prizefight, Hopkins might have thrown that towel into the ring.
Hopkins made frequent substitutions the rest of the way and relied on a makeshift lineups that included deep reserves RaeQuan Battle, J’Raan Brooks, Nate Pryor and Bajema along with starter Nate Roberts.
“We gathered before we got on the court and said ‘Hey, we really got nothing to lose here,’” Bajema said. “We were down by quite a bit. We just said work your butt off, play as hard as you can and see what we can do with this thing. Credit to those guys that were in at the end, they played amazing.”
Washington trimmed its deficit to 14 points (67-53) in the final six minutes, but couldn’t get any closer.
“It’s all about energy for me,” Hopkins said. “I felt like were starting to play a little bit selfish. I felt like our guys’ energy was really low. We weren’t executing and we weren’t getting to the right spots so Put guys in that haven’t played and who wanted an opportunity to play. I thought they performed and earned opportunities.”
The Huskies (4-17, 3-13 Pac-12) needed a career-high 13 points and three 3-pointers from Bajema – all in the second half – on a night when leading scorer Green didn’t score until the opening moments of the second half and finished with just five points.
Marcus Tsohonis, who scored a career-high 29 points in Monday’s 65-63 win over Washington State and was averaging 25.5 points in the past two games, tallied just four points on 2-for-11 shooting in 23 minutes.
Stevenson began the second half on the bench and made a brief appearance before the subs took over.
“I think he popped a tire when he went (up),” Hopkins said referring to Stevenson’s injury. “Sometimes when you do that you feel like you pop your knee a little bit. For him it was one of those things where it gets a little bit scary. He checked out well. I just didn’t want to push it.”
Meanwhile, Oscar da Silva had 18 points and Jaiden Delaire 15 for Stanford (14-8, 10-6). Cardinal senior guard Daejon Davis, the former Garfield High star, added 12 points off the bench in what could be his final visit to his hometown.
Washington hosts California at 7 p.m. Saturday in its final home game.
“It’s been a rough little stretch here,” Bajema said. “We’re sticking through it and we’re getting better.”
— Washington will play at Arizona State on Tuesday to make up a postponed contest between the teams that was originally scheduled for Jan. 2 in Seattle. UW also plays at ASU on Thursday.
— In honor of Black History month, the Huskies wore black jerseys and shorts with gold trimming and sneakers that were inspired by their gear in the 1980s.