UW men’s basketball at crossroads in game with WSU
The Huskies are on a three-game losing streak after an 11-0 start and are looking to rectify things against Washington State at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Treat them all the same.
That’s the Huskies’ approach to each game.
And yet as the Washington men’s basketball team approaches the midpoint of the regular season, it feels as if the Huskies have crashed into a one-game crossroads that’s likely to define their season, which started with so much promise.
Two weeks ago, they were ranked 13th in the nation after winning their first 11 games. Then, inexplicably, the losing started and Washington has yet to recover.
The backslide began with a stunning setback to Stony Brook at Alaska Airlines Arena followed by two Bay Area defeats, which included an 81-75 loss to California in the conference opener and Sunday’s 68-60 OT loss to Stanford.
Now Washington (11-3, 0-2 Pac-12) returns home for Saturday’s noon cross-state showdown against Washington State (7-7, 1-1), hoping to halt a three-game losing streak and rekindle its NCAA tournament aspirations.
While the anxiety might be rising among UW fans, coach Lorenzo Romar believes the Huskies are nearing a reversal.
“We’re close,” he said pinching his index finger against his thumb. “We just got to get that extra edge back. The first 11 games versus now, I don’t think there’s a huge difference in our team. I actually think we will weather this storm and come out better.”
There’s so much to like about the Huskies. Nigel Williams-Goss, UW’s sophomore point guard, routinely nears a triple-double in each outing. Sophomore center Robert Upshaw, averaging a nation-leading 4.6 blocks per game, will likely surpass the UW season record (67) Saturday. He has 64.
Four UW players average double-figure scoring, including Williams-Goss (13.6 points per game), Andrew Andrews (11.9), Upshaw (11.1) and Shawn Kemp Jr. (10.5).
And despite a 31-point outburst from California guard Jordan Mathews last Friday, the Huskies are still one of better defensive teams in the country. They allow opponents to shoot .349 from the field, which ranks seventh among 351 Division I teams.
“They are a team that got off to a great start,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said. “When you start to win, you’re undefeated, you get ranked, all of a sudden now expectations come up and you’re at a different level of pressure because of those expectations.”
Washington’s biggest problem during the three-game skid has been the lack of three-point shooting. The Huskies weren’t exceptional on the perimeter at the start of the season, but they’re shooting just 27.9 percent on three-pointers in the past three games.
“We have definitely not shot the ball well,” Romar said. “You look at our three-point field-goal percentages and there’s only a couple of guys that’s right at 40 percent, but we have not shot the ball well. I don’t think I can hide that or mask that.
“I’m still looking for the day when we come out and we’re shooting a decent percentage from the three-point line. There has a been a game when we’ve shot in the 40s as a team, but we’ve played 14 though and it hasn’t been like 10 of those.”
Without a three-point threat, opposing teams have been able to focus its defense to limit Upshaw and Kemp in the post. During its 11-game winning streak, the Huskies averaged 72.1 points. They’re down to 64 in the three losses.
“Individually I think we have good shooters on the team,” Williams-Goss said. “I think it goes back to understanding the offense better. When you have a better feel for the offense, you’re not thinking. You always play better, shoot better and do everything better the less you think and when you’re just out there playing freely.”
|Washington raced out to 11 straight wins followed by three consecutive losses. Here’s a statistical breakdown of the opposing streaks.|
|First 11||Categories||Last 3|
|72.1||Points per game||64.0|
|12.1||Turnovers per game||14.3|
|27.9||Opp. 3-pt. FG%||38.3|