In view of the current debacle, it’s hard to remember that the Washington Huskies won the Pac-12 Conference tournament back to back in 2010 and 2011. That history receded a little more Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, when 11th-seeded Huskies ended their pitiful season with a school-record 13th consecutive loss, the final a 78-73 defeat to sixth-seeded USC in the tourney’s first round.
Markelle Fultz, the all-conference freshman guard, spent what was likely his final college game on the bench, as he did in five of his previous seven games, resting a sore knee. The injury to the Pac-12’s leading scorer helped assure the Huskies would miss the NCAA tournament for a sixth consecutive season.
The losing streak was the school’s longest by four games and the 9-22 mark (2-17 in conference) tied for the most losses in school history. The Huskies went 5-22 in 1993-94, the first year under coach Bob Bender.
Washington last won Jan. 18, so long ago that Barack Obama was still president.
The only drama remaining was the fate of coach Romar, who had the worst season of his 15 years at his alma mater. According to a report on Yahoo.com Monday, he will return for his 16th season with a highly regarded recruiting class.
Romar said post-game he has heard nothing about his fate.
“Not one way or another,” he said. “It’s an evaluation process going on right now. I know there was something that came out, but there was no truth to that.
“I know that our administration and (AD) Jen Cohen, they’re very supportive. I do know that, and a decision has to be made. We’ll see what happens.”
The Huskies opened up a 37-27 lead in the first half, which included three-pointers from Matisse Thybulle on three consecutive possessions. But the Trojans closed to 39-37 at the half, then ripped the Huskies apart to start the second half.
The 25-7 run around halftime put the Trojans up 62-53. Four consecutive USC points came on free throws from Bennie Boatright, who was fouled on his shot and drew a technical foul from Carlos Johnson. The Trojans kept the ball and scored, making for a six-point possession.
Washington recovered behind David Crisp, who went all 40 minutes and finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, a far cry from three nights earlier against the Trojans in Los Angeles, when he went scoreless in 18 foul-plagued minutes.
But Crisp also made the Huskies’ final mistake in a mistake-filled game. Trailing 76-73 with 21 seconds left after USC missed two free throws, Crisp decided to force up a three instead of taking a quick lay-in. That would have been followed by a foul to force the Trojans make free throws, while leaving enough time for UW to attempt to tie or win.
But Crisp forgot, and the Trojans, a bubble team for the NCAA tourney field determined Sunday, improved to 25-8 with 10 players either freshmen or sophomores on the 14-man roster. The Trojans, who fell behind by 10 points in each game, swept the three games from the Huskies, who had 17, 16 and 17 turnovers in the series.
In his final game, senior center Malik Dime 1had 0 points, five rebounds and six blocks. USC, which made 24 of 29 free throws (UW was 8 for 11), was led by 6-11 sophomore forward Chimezie Metu, who had 24 points and nine rebounds.