Down 1 with 5.2 seconds left and 94 feet away from the basket, Mike Hopkins figured there wasn’t enough time to get the ball across midcourt, call timeout and set up a potential game-winning play.
So the Huskies went with Option A, in which Quade Green raced the length of the court at the McKale Center before launching a contested, off-balance three-pointer that landed short of the rim as time expired in their 75-74 defeat against Arizona.
“Tonight, they made a play and we didn’t,” Hopkins said. “It’s unfortunate.”
Saturday’s regular-season finale was another heartbreaking loss for the Washington men’s basketball team, which found itself on the cusp of an upset victory for the second straight game only to fall short in the final seconds.
On Thursday, UW was tied with less than a minute remaining before falling apart at the end of an 80-72 defeat at Arizona State.
This time, Washington played arguably its best game of the season while shooting 49% from the field and finishing with five players in double-digit scoring for the first time since Feb. 1, 2020.
The Huskies also held Arizona to a season-low 36.5% field-goal shooting.
In their previous matchup — an 80-53 Arizona victory on Dec. 31 at Alaska Airlines Arena — the Wildcats crushed the Huskies 58-30 on rebounds.
Once again, Arizona used its superior size on the front line to enjoy lopsided disparities in rebounding (41-29), offensive rebounds (13-3) and second-chance points (18-3) while UW forwards Hameir Wright and Nate Roberts fouled out.
“Unfortunately us fighting got us into a little bit of foul trouble,” Wright said. “You’ve got to take that one on the chin. But fighting, boxing out, talking and just being active negate size a lot. And the scheme. There’s a lot of things that you can do to get around that.”
Before departing in the final 2½ minutes, Wright finished with 18 points and five three-pointers — both career highs — in his final regular-season game.
“I’m just really proud of them,” Hopkins said. “It’s hard. It’s a hard season not having the success that we wanted to. That was the eighth game in 17 days. There’s no practice time. You’re watching film. You’re getting some shots. You’re trying to manage your energy. That’s what I was really proud of them.
“Tonight they fought. … We were a light heavyweight fighting a heavyweight tonight. That’s what you want from your kids. You want them to play hard. You want them to play smart and play together. I thought for the most part we did that tonight.”
The Huskies overcame a nine-point deficit (54-45) midway through the second half to set up a wild and crazy finish.
During Washington’s 26-16 run, Marcus Tsohonis scored eight of his 13 points while Jamal Bey tallied seven of his 11.
After six straight points from Tsohonis, Erik Stevenson (12 points and eight rebounds) converted a three-point play — a contested layup and free throw — to put UW ahead by two points.
At the other end, James Akinjo (26 points and seven assists) slipped around a screen for an open three-pointer that put Arizona on top 73-72 with 1:15 remaining.
Washington answered when Green (17 points) drew a foul and sank both free throws to go up by one (74-73). After Akinjo missed a layup, Green tried to draw another foul, but was given an offensive foul — his fourth turnover with 15 seconds left.
Needing one more stop, the Huskies smothered Akinjo when he drove into the lane. However, the Wildcats guard whipped the ball into the corner to Azuolas Tubelis (16 points and 15 rebounds) for the go-ahead basket with 5.2 seconds left.
“They kept running ball screens for Akinjo and we were trying to figure that out,” Hopkins said. “So at the end we just decided to go small and get into a switch. When the guy dives, we were making sure that Akinjo wasn’t going to beat us because we knew he was going to try and force somebody else.
“Tubelis made a big shot. Got to give him a lot credit. Big-time players make big-time plays. They made the pass. He made the shot. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
The referees initially ruled Tubelis’ shot a three-pointer, but changed it to a two after a review.
Still, the break in action allowed Arizona to set up its defense.
“When they hit the shot in the corner, usually we get it and we’re just going to go coast to coast,” Hopkins said. “It’s our 4-second play. When you’re in those types of situations, sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you want it to work out.”
If UW had more time on the clock, Hopkins said he would have advanced the ball and called timeout to set up a better opportunity considering Green never got a good look and had to hurry up a wild shot that fell several feet short.
“Every situation is just a little bit different,” Hopkins said “They didn’t have a timeout left and I didn’t want to call a timeout to let them set up something either.”
Still, it was a curious coaching decision and one of many moves that will be second-guessed during one of the worst seasons in UW history.
At 5-20, the Huskies are tied with three other teams for the second-fewest wins in Pac-12 history since the 1968-69 season.
Washington also finished 11th in the Pac-12 at 4-16, the first year the conference increased to a 20-game league schedule.
Last season, UW was last in the Pac-12 at 5-13 after winning the conference crown in 2019 and tying for sixth in 2018.
Any chance for the Huskies to salvage anything from this season will have to wait until March 10 when they begin the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas as the No. 10 seed.
Arizona (17-8, 11-8), which self-imposed a one-year postseason ban stemming from NCAA and federal investigations into corruption and recruiting violations, finishes the season on Monday at Oregon.
“We just keep going,” Hopkins said. “DMGB — doesn’t matter get better. That’s kind of our focus every day. Obviously, the rest will help. I think the long layoff — that’s always tough in terms of keeping the game rhythm.
“But the time off will be good to heal some wounds, get in the video room and have some really good practices. We’ve proven to play well against some of the top teams in the league. Hopefully we can go down there one game at a time and play our best basketball of the year.”