BY Art Thiel 11:08PM 02/28/2020

Thiel: Huskies’ futility returns, Cougars thrilled

Using a five-point play, the Cougs ended Washington’s win streak at one, leaving the Huskies to plot how to save the season with four wins in four days in Las Vegas.

Backup center Sam Timmins was honored on senior night at Hec Ed. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

The Washington Huskies men’s basketball team is last in the Pac-12 Conference for a good reason:

There isn’t a 13th place.

The final home game of the regular season Friday night at Hec Ed hit the high point pre-game, saying good-bye to Sam Timmins and the other seniors. The temptation was strong to end things there. But Washington State did come all the way from Pullman. Wouldn’t have looked looked good to call it off.

So the Huskies committed to the exercise. They did as they have done most of the past two months: Countering stretches of competence with deep swoons of ineptitude to produce a numbingly familiar outcome.

The Cougars (15-14, 6-10) were just mediocre enough to allow the element of contest to linger into the final seconds before prevailing, 78-74 (box). Since it was the Cougars’ first conference road win of the season, they thought it was a big deal.

Just after the end of the game, Cougars guard Isaac Bonton set the ball down on center court and stomped on the giant “W.”  Moments before, WSU freshman guard Noah Williams, from Seattle’s O’Dea High School, standing at the free throw line before making the two clinchers, turned toward Huskies partisans and said, “This is my city.”

So it was, although it also belonged to C.J. Elleby, former star from Seattle’s Cleveland High who led the game with 21 points.

The Huskies (13-16, 3-13), having been swept by the Cougars, who were on a four-game losing streak, figured to be grimly disappointed. Not so.

“We’re not disappointed,” said Naz Carter sternly. “We’re getting ready for the (conference) tournament.”

Well, that explains things.

All this time, the Huskies have been laying in the weeds, plotting to win four games in four days in Las Vegas to secure the league’s guaranteed berth in the NCAA tourney. It probably wouldn’t be the longest long shot in Vegas history, but it’s likely the casinos would blink dark for a few seconds as the universe contemplated implosion.

The 2019-20 Huskies are one of the most astonishing single-year failures in Seattle sports history, given the program’s two-year uptick under coach Mike Hopkins and the hype surrounding his hire of of some prodigious, mostly out-of-state talents. After a blowout win at Cal last week, the Huskies at least offered a flicker of a return to reasonableness.

Instead, Hopkins agreed that this may have been the Huskies’ most disappointing loss.

“We’ve just been that team that shows so many good signs, and then we just . . . you’re looking for that consistency,” he said. “You’re looking for that not mental lapse. You’re looking for that focus.

“We’re taking real baby steps, we’re not taking those significant steps that we need to win these games.”

Even baby steps are hard to come by, at least after losing point guard Quade Green following a 10-2 start that including a stunning defeat of Baylor and a stout game against Gonzaga.

This would be a good time to release Green’s ghost to whatever cosmos takes NCAA academic ineligibility cases.

Green’s flunk-out doesn’t influence free throws. It has no impact on wide-open threes. It can’t alter the zone defense’s ability to stop 13-foot jumpers in the lane.

The Huskies had a whopping 38 free throws, and made 23. The Huskies had 16 treys, and made three. The Cougars, despite starting four guards and one 6-9 guy, owned the paint, winning the boards, 34-31, and second-chance points, 13-8, while shooting 50 percent from the floor. The Cougars made 21 turnovers, nearly double their conference-best 11.5 a game, and still won.

And they were led by two guys from Seattle high schools against a roster that includes seven guys 6-foot-9 or taller. It wasn’t just a loss, it was a mortification.

A  sequence that took 1:17 epitomized the futility of the evening and the season.

The Huskies woke up from a first-half slumber and a 41-28 intermission deficit with a 15-3 run to lead, 51-50 with 9:36 left, capped by a thunder dunk from reserve Jamal Bey. He followed with a ferocious shot block but couldn’t shut up about it. The subsequent technical foul produced two free throws from Isaac Bonton that began the cavalcade of despair.

Still possessing the ball after the T, Elleby hit a three from the corner to complete a five-point play. In the next two possessions, the Huskies had an offensive foul and a miss, which Bonton answered each time with a three.

The Cougars found themselves up 61-51 with 8:19 left and the Huskies, despite a late rally, were done.

“That was the game,” Hopkins said. “You can’t give up five-point plays.”

See? Hopkins still isn’t so shattered that he doesn’t know things.

Imagine how thrilled he’ll be when he finds out his players’ plan all along is to run the table in Vegas.

 


YourThoughts

  • Husky73

    May the season end swiftly.

    • Southsound Seahawk

      What are you talking about, didn’t you hear Carter? They’re gettin ready for the Pac-12 Tourney. They plan to win four games in Vegas, no problem. Losing Green was master planned, it was all a ruse, they wanted to tank the season soon after his loss but I guess Hopkins wasn’t in on it. Trust Carter, they’ll be in the NCAA tournament in no time. :/

      • art thiel

        Far be it from me to discourage sarcasm.

    • art thiel

      We can only hope the tourney is one-and-done.

      • 1coolguy

        Time to “shock the world!” Haha, wouldn’t a Husky run in the tourney be the capper for a middling conference?

        • art thiel

          There’s a better than zero chance they could win two games on talent alone, especially since they will face a mediocre team in the opener.

  • jafabian

    I don’t know how to coach leadership but that’s been sorely lacking this season. It can be blamed on the youth of the roster which has six upper classmen but only one (Timmins) who plays semi-regularly. This season is the first season where the team is comprised of Coach Hopkins recruits with Timmins being the lone holdover from the Lorenzo Romar era. Seven players on the roster are from Washington but only two play regularly. Andy Russo, Lynn Nance and Bob Bender all began to run into problems when they began to focus their recruiting out of state. Even though he’s more familiar with the East Coast Coach Hopkins should change that up to be more local.

    It’s not happening with this roster. Coach Romar would tell select players to find another school to play at. It’ll be interesting to see what Summer brings for this team.

    • art thiel

      Geography has much less to do with a roster’s success than the blend of personalities. I think McDaniels is basically selfish, and in the absence of an upper-class point guard, he’s messed up team chemistry.

      • jafabian

        But doesn’t that make the local high school coaches hesitant in recommending their players to UW? Lorenzo had the luxury of being remembered as a player under Marv Harshman. Coach Hopkins is already an outsider coming to the NW. If he immediately starts focusing on his East Coast roots then IMO he runs the risk on missing out on the next Brandon Roy.

        • art thiel

          Most high school coaches are as mercenary as college coaches. Their loyalties are often with shoe companies.

          Every big-time college seeks to hire the best candidate regardless of local affiliation. Geography is increasingly irrelevant.

          • LarryLurex70

            Except to the holdouts in the peanut gallery here in the PNW, who sadly still cling to the “if-it-ain’t-local-it-ain’t-right” line of thought. As if anything that comes from here is just automatically superior. It isn’t.

          • art thiel

            I think the larger point is that a big program doesn’t want to let premium local talent escape. It’s probably why Hopkins put a big emphasis on McDaniels, of FedWay. Hop just couldn’t coach the selfishness out of him. As Romar failed with Tony Wroten.

          • Husky73

            Hopkins hasn’t been here long enough to understand the FWHS program.

          • art thiel

            Programs like FW are everywhere. Hopkins coached at Syracuse, where FW-like HS programs were all he and Boeheim dealt with. FW is nickel-dime compared to the worst.

          • Husky73

            If you are speaking nationally, you are probably correct. If you are speaking of the State of Washington, you are wrong. FW is the pinnacle of high school hoops corruption and has been for decades— and through numerous AD’s, school boards, superintendents and spineless WIAA overseers. Bellevue High School football was “nickel and dime” compared to FWHS boys basketball.

      • Matt Uffens

        Agree, that’s about 60% of it. I’ll give the other 40% to Hopkins coaching and player mismanagement.

  • coug73

    It was a fun game for me to watch. Kyle Smith is doing a good job of coaching in his first year of WSU basketball. Go Cougs.

    • art thiel

      What a surprising take from coug73.

      The two Seattle kids burned UW.

      • jafabian

        IMO they should be Huskies.

      • coug73

        You mean the two Cougar players. Winning on the UW court is always fun.
        Keep calm and cougar on!

        • Effzee

          Yes. The two Cougars players. Who are also from Seattle. Y’all out there can’t do anything without our help.

          Only 77 more in a row to tie the all time series! Good luck, lil bro.

  • 1coolguy

    “We’re not disappointed,” said Naz Carter sternly. “We’re getting ready for the (conference) tournament.”
    Remarkably disillusioned or some serious cajones?

    • art thiel

      It’s a fine line. Remember when you were 21?

  • rosetta_stoned

    I seriously doubt the two-time Coach of the Year suddenly lost the ability. Wonder if a shake-up amongst the assistant coaches may be in order.