Recently, Haas Pavilion has been a house of horrors for the Huskies.
Last year, California stunned Washington 76-73 to snap the Golden Bears’ 16-game losing streak on a night when the Huskies won the Pac-12 regular-season title.
And Saturday, Cal handed UW a 61-58 overtime defeat that was nearly as stunning as their previous meeting considering the two teams were separated by more than 130 spots in the NET rankings. (Washington was No. 41; Cal No. 173)
The Huskies’ second straight loss – their fourth in the past five games – drops them to 11-6 and 1-3 in the Pac-12.
Here are three impressions.
Looking for leaders
Coach Mike Hopkins didn’t mince words during a postgame interview when he laid out the plan for the Huskies going forward. If the defending Pac-12 regular-season champions are going to get back into the title chase, then juniors Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright will have to play better.
“I’m challenging our seniors,” said Hopkins, who acknowledged he misspoke and meant to say upperclassmen. “Our (upperclassmen) have to step up. Bottom line. More production from our … upperclassmen.”
Technically, Sam Timmins also qualifies as an upperclassman. However, the senior forward averages just 2.2 points, 1.4 rebounds and fewer than eight minutes, which makes it difficult for him to provide a meaningful impact.
Hopkins was referring to Carter and Wright.
When asked specifically about Carter, Hopkins said: “I felt like defensively we can get more out of him, especially in the zone. When he’s active we’re just a different team. … He had a couple of breakdowns in the man today. We just need him.”
It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
On Saturday, Carter had probably his worst game of the season while connecting on just 2 of 13 shots and 1 of 7 three-pointers for nine points, four rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 36½ minutes.
He also had three chances to put UW ahead in the final 1:37 of regulation and didn’t deliver.
Meanwhile, Wright has struggled to maintain a high level of consistency on the offensive end.
Despite shooting 27% on three-pointers, the 6-foot-9 forward has attempted 63 shots behind the arc, which is third most on the team and accounts for 77% of his field-goal attempts.
Clearly, the Huskies need more production from Carter and Wright, but I believe Hopkins also wants them to assume command and ownership of the team much like the senior quartet of David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson and Dominic Green did last season.
Isaiah Stewart is a natural leader, but it’s asking a lot of an 18-year-old freshman to successfully navigate his first Pac-12 road trip.
Carter has played in 87 games, which is 70 more than Stewart.
“We need that leadership,” Hopkins said of Carter. “We need that voice. We need that intensity. Same thing with Hameir. If we want to win, then they’ve got to step up. Bottom line.”
Point guard by committee
Elijah Hardy started at point guard last Thursday, and Jamal Bey got the nod Saturday.
At this rate, it wouldn’t be surprising if freshman backup Marcus Tsohonis were to make his first career start against Oregon State on Thursday.
Hopkins made it clear that he hasn’t settled on anyone in particular to take over for Quade Green, who was ruled academically ineligible and is out through at least the Pac-12 tournament.
“It’s going to be position by committee,” Hopkins said. “It could be Marcus one day. It could be Elijah. We want to play a certain way and if they can go out and execute that, then they’re going to play. Bottom line.”
Bey finished with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and two turnovers while shooting 4 of 11 from the field and 1 of 5 on three-pointers in 33½ minutes.
Hardy was scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting with just one assist in 13:40. And Tsohonis had three points and one assist in six minutes.
Tough road ahead
Before the season it appeared Washington had a favorable four-game start to Pac-12 play with home games against lightly regarded UCLA and USC and a road trip to Stanford and California, teams that finished 10th and 12th, respectively, in the preseason conference poll.
However, the Huskies are 1-3 in the Pac-12 with home games this week against Oregon State and No. 9 Oregon.
Then Washington goes on the road to face Utah and Colorado before hosting No. 24 Arizona and Arizona State.
It’s the toughest stretch of the season. Somehow, the Huskies will need to go 4-2 to revive fading postseason hopes and even their league record at 5-5 with eight regular-season games left.
If Washington doesn’t make drastic improvements, then it’s looking at a 2-4 record – or worse – over the next three weeks.