December's demons are back to bedevil Huskies
Oregon beat the Washington Huskies Thursday night, 82-57. It was as bad a 40 minutes as Washington had played all year.
Seattle Times staff columnist
EUGENE, Ore. — This loss was embarrassing. It was a deer-in-the-headlights loss. A night this bad was supposed to be part of the Huskies' history. This was the kind of game they should have had outgrown.
Oregon beat the Washington Huskies Thursday night, 82-57. It was as bad a 40 minutes as Washington had played all year. A thoroughly indescribably dispassionate performance from a team that came into the game with so much to gain.
Don't look for an answer for why this happened. This was inexplicable.
"They made us pay for every mistake we made," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "And we made plenty of them."
Oregon played with twice the energy. They beat the Huskies down the floor, beat them to the rim, beat them in every phase of the game and finally buried them in a late-game avalanche of posterizing dunks.
Just when you thought their slow starts were over, when you thought these Huskies had figured it out and were starting to play like some of those other Washington teams, a game like this happened.
A game this bad was supposed to be in the rearview mirror. But this was 40 minutes of sustained lethargy. As Romar acknowledged, it was every bit as bad as the losses to South Dakota State, Saint Louis or Colorado.
Oregon's senior Garrett Sim, looking like he was playing his own game of H-O-R-S-E, hit a jumper and two threes to give the Ducks an 8-0 lead from which Washington never recovered. The Huskies looked like they never knew what hit them.
Washington played without emotion, without purpose. The Huskies' passive zone was riddled by Oregon's white-hot shooters. They had no answer. They had no life.
The Ducks (8-4 in the conference) shot 64.3 percent in the first half, taking a 49-26 lead. Usually the Huskies respond, but not on this night. Not even close.
Considering how good Washington had been playing, winning 8 of its last 9, this loss was shocking.
The Huskies' bus from the hotel was delayed by a massive traffic jam. The players got to Matthew Knight Arena about 45 minutes late. But that's not a realistic excuse. They left their passion on their bus seats.
Where was Terrence Ross' offensive magic? Where were Abdul Gaddy's muscular drives to the rim? Where was Darnell Gant's inside aggression? Why couldn't Tony Wroten take care of the ball?
"We didn't come ready to play," Wroten said.
Where was the Washington defense? Where was Aziz N-Diaye erasing mistakes at the rim, getting blocks that could lead to fast breaks? This was déjà December. The worst of times revisited.
Slowly, since their loss on the road to Colorado, we got the sense Washington was arriving. The Huskies were playing more together; playing more consistently; playing the way they're supposed to play at this point in the season. They looked as if they were peaking for their usual March run.
But this game showed again that these Huskies aren't as tough as their predecessors. They don't play with the same edge. They don't create the same flood of turnovers. They don't play as fast.
For much of the season, this has felt like a long journey toward self-awareness for Washington. Rarely has this team put two solid halves together. Even in this recent stretch when they've won 8 of 9, the Huskies have had long periods of head-scratching inconsistency.
Earlier this week, Romar said it still felt as if his team were digging out of its early-season hole.
He was prophetic.
The Huskies still are digging, still searching for answers, trying to find themselves. They're still not there. Not where they usually are at this point in the season.
Romar has said that this team is a work in progress, but this team is less than a work in progress. A game this bad makes it more likely this is a team that isn't going to get where it wants to get.
At 9-3, it is tied with Cal for the conference lead. It still can make the NCAA tournament. In a weakened Pac-12 Conference, it can win 20-plus games. But it isn't going to be able to put weekends together like many of its predecessors have.
At this most serious part of the season, inside Matthew Knight Arena, all of the demons of December came back to haunt these Huskies.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com.
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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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