The Washington men’s basketball team ended 2020 the same way it began this season – with a dud of a performance and a lopsided defeat.
The Huskies returned from an 11-day layoff Thursday night and displayed many of the same problems against Arizona that plagued them early in the season.
They couldn’t shoot straight beyond the arc. They couldn’t find a scorer other than Quade Green. And they couldn’t slow down the Wildcats defensively.
Of course, there were other problems as well, but those were the highlights – or lowlights – in an 80-53 defeat on New Year’s Eve inside a near-empty Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies fell to 1-7 and 0-3 in the Pac-12.
It’s Washington’s worst start since starting 0-8 in the 1953-54 season and the third time this season the Huskies have lost by least 20 points, which is the most since the 2003-04 season.
“Of course, there’s a sense of urgency,” said Green, who scored a game-high 23 points – three shy of his personal best. “We’re 1 and 7 right now, but we’ve also got to think positive. Any negativity is going to bring a team down.
“We’re in the hole that we’re already in so we’ve got to get out of it right now. And we’re going to do that by everyone coming together and working every day.”
Heading into the game, coach Mike Hopkins said he wanted to see “fight and a lot of togetherness” from his UW team that at times has looked disjointed and listless.
“The togetherness was there,” Hopkins said. “But I felt like the fight, they set the tone and we didn’t.”
Hopkins tweaked the starting unit for the second consecutive game and re-inserted Erik Stevenson and Jamal Bey into the lineup that opened five of the first six games of the season.
“I thought it would be our best defensive lineup,” Hopkins said. “That’s the bottom line. We’ve been struggling scoring and I felt like with our size and Jamal Bey up top (in the 2-3 zone) rather than two small guards gave us the best chance to be good defensively.
“They started off the game shooting 4 for 8 … so that was discouraging. And then we got killed on the glass.”
Arizona crushed Washington 58-30 in rebounds, including a 19-9 disparity on the offensive end.
Hopkins’ tweaks also resulted in yet another flat outing from a dormant offense that relies heavily on Green’s shot-making heroics.
The Huskies fell behind 19-9 after nine minutes and trailed by 19 points (42-23) with 2:14 remaining in the first half.
“I really believe at the beginning of the game, they set the tone and we didn’t,” Hopkins said. “I say that because we cut it eight (29-21 with 5:35 left in the first half), but we couldn’t make a shot and then they started pounding us on the glass.
“To me, that’s unacceptable. I didn’t feel like we competed the way we had to compete against a great offensive rebounding team like them. We felt like if we could rebound against them then we could get in transition. That was a little bit disappointing.”
Washington went into halftime down 42-28.
The second half proved to be more of the same for the Huskies, who were outscored 16-6 during the first eight minutes and trailed 58-34 with 11:57 left.
Washington never got closer than 21 points the rest of the way and trailed by as much as 30 in the final minutes.
“I felt like the togetherness was there,” Hopkins said. “The guys stayed together. They didn’t fracture. I thought Quade did a really good job of being a leader where he’s been a little lackadaisical in the past. He really was encouraging guys in timeouts and what we’ve got to do. Now he’s got to have some support. We’ve got to be able to make some shots.”
Green did almost everything offensively for the Huskies while scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-for-21 shooting from the field and leading the team in scoring for the fourth time this season.
No other UW player scored more than seven points.
“It’s a basketball game so you never know,” Green said. “They could have came out missing shots, but they came out hitting. We could have came out making shots, but we came out missing. It’s just basketball at the end of the day. You’re going to hit some and you’re going to (miss) some.”
Once again, the Huskies had difficulties igniting a dormant perimeter attack that converted just 6 of 31 three-pointers. Hameir Wright was 0 for 8, Green 3 for 11 and RaeQuan Battle 1 for 4 from downtown.
Meanwhile, Stevenson converted just 1 of 8 shots for two points and Bey had four points on 2-for-4 shooting.
“Hameir got great shots,” Hopkins said. “I felt like at the beginning of the game, Erik Stevenson got great shots. We’ve got to be able to knock them down.
“At the end, Quade will force a couple of shots because he’s just trying to will our team to a win. Other guys have to be able to step up and knock them down. … Of the 31 threes, I would say 20 of them were good looks.”
The Wildcats (8-1, 2-1) received a team-high 13 points from Bennedict Mathurin. Jordan Brown added 12 points while Terrell Brown Jr., the transfer from Seattle University who starred at Garfield High, had 10 points for Arizona.
The 27-point defeat is the second largest of the season for Washington, which lost by 34 points in the opener against Baylor and 23 in its last outing versus Colorado.
“I felt like our interior defense was not good tonight,” Hopkins said, lamenting Arizona’s 26 free-throw attempts. “That’s an area that we have to clean up for sure.”
— Washington is scheduled to meet Arizona State at home at 3:30 p.m. Saturday even though the Sun Devils’ game at Washington State on Thursday had to be postponed due to COVID-19 developments within the ASU program.