In their 90-82 loss at Utah on Wednesday night, the Huskies allowed the Utes to shoot a season-high 67.3 percent from the field.
BOULDER, Colo. — Give the young Huskies some credit. They have exceeded most expectations — particularly the Pac-12 preseason media poll that projected an 11th-place finish for the pups.
Entering the final third of the regular season, the Washington men’s basketball team (15-9, 7-5 Pac-12) is locked in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference standings with Utah and Saturday’s opponent, Colorado (18-7, 7-5).
There’s more good news.
Washington @ Colorado, 11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks
With 3½ weeks remaining before the conference tournament, the Huskies are two games behind Pac-12 leader Oregon and remain in contention for the regular-season title. They’re also included in many NCAA tournament projections, which would snap a five-year Big Dance drought.
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And now the bad news.
UW is in a late-season swoon, which might not come as a surprise to fans still bitter from last season’s 5-15 finish that ruined an 11-0 start.
The Huskies are 1-3 in the past four games and 2-4 in the past six, including a 95-83 overtime win against Arizona State and an 86-84 victory at UCLA.
In fact, the most recent time the Huskies played what coach Lorenzo Romar likes to call a “complete game” was Jan. 20 when they defeated Colorado 95-83 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
They had everything working perfectly that night, and it remains their best game in Pac-12 play.
Andrew Andrews finished with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists. UW also received big games from Dejounte Murray (17 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals), Marques Chriss (17 points, six rebounds and five blocks) and Malik Dime (10 points, seven blocks and six rebounds).
The Huskies blocked 15 shots and forced 16 turnovers. They took control midway in the first half and went up 47-33 at the break. They extended their advantage to 22 points (71-49) with 11:39 left and held a double-digit lead for 19 minutes in the second half.
“It’s more of a lesson of what we’re capable of when we are locked in,” Romar said. “We’re locked in a lot. We do a good job a lot of times, but when we make mistakes it shows up and burns us big time.”
That’s what happened Wednesday in a 90-82 loss at Utah. The Huskies allowed the Utes to shoot a season-high 67.3 percent from the field.
If the Huskies repeat that defensive performance Saturday at the Coors Events Center, then they likely will return to Seattle with their first three-game losing streak.
The X-factor for the Buffaloes is star forward Josh Scott. He suffered an ankle injury last week and sat out Thursday’s 88-81 double-overtime win over Washington State.
Scott is one of the best players in the Pac-12 and ranks among the conference leaders in scoring (fifth, 16.7 ppg), rebounding (fourth, 9.1 rpg), field-goal percentage (ninth, 55.6 percent) and blocks (fourth, 1.8 bpg).
He also has given UW fits. In five games against the Huskies, he has averaged 16.6 points and 7.4 rebounds.
“We’re figuring on him being in the starting lineup,” Romar said.
Romar also expects the Huskies to bounce back from their worst defensive outing of the season.
“I don’t believe this group will stop improving until we play our last game,” Romar said. “We’re not an old, veteran team that’s reached our ceiling, I don’t believe.
“I still think we have a chance to get a little better.”
|Friday’s resultsArizona 81, UCLA 75|
|Arizona State 74, USC 67|