After playing about as well as they can in constructing a 27-15 lead in the first 22 minutes, the Washington Huskies fell apart defensively, lost their grip on the ball and fell to the California Bears 72-59 Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena. UW probably played its way out of an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament, if it hadn’t already.
Victimized by a 17-0 Cal run at the end of the first half, Washington dropped to 14-12 overall and 6-7 in Pac-12 play. The Huskies also saw their seven-game home winning streak end. California, almost certain to make the NCAA Tournament, improved to 17-8 and 8-4.
Most of Washington’s numbers came up negative despite the fast start. The Huskies shot 35.9 percent from the floor and made 4 of 21 from 3-point range. That included an 0-for-14 effort in the second half. Washington also had 14 turnovers.
“The momentum kind of shifted on us and we never got it back,” senior Perris Blackwell said of UW coughing up a 12-point lead. “We’ve got to get right mentally over this weekend and see how much we want this. We’ll just have to dig deep and come back to work on Monday. We’re going to have to find a way to get over this.”
“This was really unfortunate and it’s not something we saw coming,” said coach Lorenzo Romar. “We were dialed in, out-rebounding them, and the next thing you know there are some careless turnovers and missed shots. After that, we could not stop the bleeding.
“I just thought we got down on our selves mentally and couldn’t recover. That’s what has happened to us on the road. We allow negativity to set in and focus on what’s not going well. We definitely took a couple of steps backward in this game.”
Leading scorer C.J. Wilcox had five assists and four blocked shots, but couldn’t find his shot and finished with a season-low eight points, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range. Wilcox has made only 3 of his last 23 3-point attempts.
“He wasn’t as aggressive in the first half as he needed to be, and in the second half he couldn’t get it to drop,” said Romar.
Andrew Andrews, who played a season-low five minutes against Stanford last Wednesday, rebounded with 21 points, Nigel Williams-Goss added 12 and Blackwell, despite four fouls, contributed 10 rebounds and 11 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season.
Tyrone Wallace produced 20 points for Cal and Richard Solomon had 18 as the Bears generated a 20-7 edge in points off turnovers.
Washington stormed to a 27-15 lead with 6:40 remaining in the first half as Andrews and Williams-Goss scored nine points each and the Huskies dominated the boards 19-7. Then UW got sloppy, fueling a 19-2 California run that ended with the Bears holding a 34-29 halftime lead.
Washington dropped four 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes, none by Wilcox, who didn’t get his first basket until the final minute before intermission. Cal made its late, first-half run by stealing the ball six times.
Cal quickly stretched its lead to 40-31 in the first two minutes of the second half and the Huskies never could make much of a dent. Wallace went coast-to-coast for a layup and an old-fashioned 3-pointer at 13:05 to give the Bears a 50-37 lead.
UW pulled within 50-43 at 11:12 and to 50-45 on a fadeaway jumper by Andrews at 10:22. But every time Washington cut into Cal’s lead, the Bears ran it out to double figures. In one two-play sequence, Wilcox and Andrews blew layups.
The Huskies travel to Oregon next week to face the Ducks Wednesday (6 p.m.) and the Beavers Saturday (1 p.m.).