Whatever the opposite of an exclamation point is, it felt like the Huskies just put it on their season.
Whatever semblance of redemption they might have hoped for Friday fizzled out of sight.
Amid what might be the most disappointing season in program history, Washington at least had the chance to take out its rival at home. But as has been the theme throughout Pac-12 play, that victory never came.
Washington State beat UW for the second time this season, this time by a score of 78-74. Surges at the beginning and end of the second half proved futile for the Dawgs (13-16, 3-13 in the Pac-12), who remain in last place by a full two games.
There are still opponents on the regular-season schedule, and still a tournament to be played in Las Vegas. But as far as their Pac-12 cap goes, it remains virtually featherless.
This isn’t meant to be a shot at the spirit of the Huskies, who took the lead after trailing by 12 points in the first half, then pulled within one after trailing by 13 in the second. Despite the Huskies losing 10 more conference games than they’ve won, Pac-12 opponents have outscored them by only one point this season.
They have been in virtually every game. In their conference, however, they have lost every close game.
The mathematical odds of Washington’s Pac-12 record being this poor given its play have to be astronomical. But that offers no comfort to a team that can’t get out of its own way.
“It’s hard, because I know we’re good,” said Washington coach Mike Hopkins, the two-time defending Pac-12 coach of the year. “We’ve just been that team that shows so many really good signs. It’s like anything. You’re looking for that consistency. Looking to not have that mental lapse.”
Though some might argue it was oversensitive officiating, it seems clear where that mental lapse came Friday. With the Huskies leading 51-50 at the 9:36 mark in the second half, Jamal Bey got hit with a technical foul for taunting after rejecting Cougars guard Isaac Bonton. Bonton made one of his free throws, then WSU scored the next 10 points and never relinquished the lead.
It seems insane for a team this gifted to be in this much of a rut. Yet it is a sentence such as that that seems to be typed or uttered every week or so.
The Huskies have two of the top 10 recruits in the country in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, who finished with 10 and 19 points, respectively. They are coming off a 27-win year in which they captured the Pac-12 title and won an NCAA tournament game. And yet they haven’t just struggled this season — they are one loss or one Oregon State win away from finishing alone in last place for the first time since 1991.
There is no doubt that losing point guard Quade Green to academic ineligibility in early January hampered this team severely. He was their best playmaker and was shooting over 50 percent from the field. His absence forced UW to activate redshirt Marcus Tsohonis, who has been serviceable, but hasn’t played to Green’s level. Still, should the loss of one player really lead to this much of a plunge?
How much disappointment are you guys feeling right now? I asked Huskies wing Nahziah Carter, who missed what would have been the game-tying shot with with eight seconds left.
“I’m not feeling any disappointment,” Carter said. “We’re just getting ready for the (Pac-12) tournament, sir.”
Fair enough. After games against Arizona and Arizona State next week, the Huskies will try for a miracle four-game winning streak in Vegas, where they will likely play as the 12th seed.
Their level of talent suggests they could surprise some people. But that level of talent has misled all season long.