As the losses continue to mount for the Washington men’s basketball team, including an 86-74 defeat at Oregon on Saturday, coach Mike Hopkins received a vote of confidence a day earlier from UW athletic director Jen Cohen.
When asked during a Seattle Times interview if Hopkins’ job was in jeopardy, Cohen said: “Absolutely not.”
“I believe in Mike,” she added. “I’m supportive of Mike. I’m excited to be his partner and figure out how we’re going to reevaluate things after this year.”
Cohen hired Hopkins, who had spent the previous 22 years at Syracuse, in 2017 and he won consecutive Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards during his first two seasons at UW.
Following a Pac-12 regular-season title and an NCAA tournament berth in 2019, Hopkins signed a six-year, $17.5 million extension.
Since then, Washington has taken a dramatic nosedive.
Last season, the Huskies finished 15-17 and last in the Pac-12 at 5-13. And things have gotten worse.
This season, UW is 3-14 and 2-10, which has led to speculation about Hopkins’ job security. (He’s owed a guaranteed $12.2 million on a contract that expires after the 2024-25 season.)
“Sometimes these things are cyclical,” said Cohen, who also confirmed UW is moving forward with building a new basketball training facility. “Sometimes they’re really frustrating. There’s nobody that’s more upset with losing and where this program is right now than Mike Hopkins and me.
“So I’m confident that we’re going to come up with a plan at the end of the year and we’re going to get headed back in the right direction.”
In the meantime, Washington, which lost eight straight games earlier this season, is embroiled in another losing streak after dropping its third consecutive game.
The Huskies, who are 0-10 on the road, were doomed once again by the same problem that’s plagued them all season – a porous defense that surrendered 12 three-pointers and was bullied in the paint while being outrebounded 32-20 and outscored 32-24.
Washington has allowed at least 76 points and an average of 86.2 on the road against nine Pac-12 teams.
Oregon played without leading scorer Chris Duarte (right ankle inury) and starting forward Eric Williams (COVID-19 protocols), but the Ducks still had more than enough firepower to overwhelm UW’s four-guard lineup, which included backup Marcus Tsohonis.
“That’s the lineup we played against Colorado and sometimes we had it against Utah,” Hopkins said referring to the Huskies’ upset wins two weeks ago. “We were able to get away with it, but tonight it didn’t work. It just didn’t.”
Washington kept pace with Oregon at the start and led 18-14 after 6½ minutes. The Ducks answered with an 18-4 run to go up 32-22 with 5:07 left in the first half.
The Huskies never got closer than six points for the rest of the half and went into the break down 42-31.
“We came out with great energy,” Hopkins said. “We’re moving the ball and sharing the ball and then we go through periods where Oregon starts ramping up their defense a little bit and we just get a little selfish. We get one dimensional.
“We just go through times and periods of if I haven’t gotten a shot, then they try to go out and get their own shot. It’s just not acceptable. We don’t have a large margin for error. Sometimes that happens. It happened tonight.”
In the second half, Washington trailed by 21 points (76-55) with 7:12 remaining before making one last rally and using a 10-0 run to trim its deficit to 76-65 at the 4:13 mark.
The Ducks answered with eight straight points to go up 84-65 with less than three minutes left and the Huskies never threatened again.
“They came out hitting shots,” said Quade Green, who scored 21 of his team-high 23 points in the second half. “We couldn’t get no stops. And when you can’t get stops, that’s what happens.”
Tsohonis had 15 points and Jamal Bey 13 for Washington, which shot 51.0% from the field and converted 9 of 19 three-pointers. Oregon shot 49.2% from the floor and 12 of 25 behind the arc.
“Losing Duarte and losing Eric Williams, their two best three-point shooters, we felt like that wouldn’t be one of their strengths,” Hopkins said. “But that was as good a shooting performance as we’ve played against this year.”
Eugene Omoruyi scored a game-high 25 points, Will Richardson had 19 and Jalen Terry 15 for Oregon (10-4, 5-3), which has a five-game winning streak against Washington and has dominated the Pacific Northwest rivalry while winning 11 of the past 12 games.
Washington has seven regular-season games remaining on the schedule, including Thursday’s matchup against USC at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Despite being 11th in the conference standings, Green believes the Huskies can still contend for the Pac-12 tournament title.
Meanwhile, Hopkins described this season as “challenging and frustrating,” but maintains Washington is capable of beating anyone in the Pac-12.
“We’re just blessed that we’re playing games and kids are able to play,” he said. “The one thing that we’ve been able to be successful at is staying healthy. That’s really probably the most important thing, especially during these times.
“Just got to be resilient. Go through it. Keep working hard. Keep getting better and learn from an unprecedented season.”