Following a disappointing road trip to the Bay Area, the Washington men’s basketball team returns to Hec Ed in desperate need of a win. The Huskies (11-6, 1-3 Pac-12) lost to Stanford and California by a combined nine points and are still struggling to find a replacement for sophomore point guard Quade Green, who was ruled academically ineligible last week.
"At the end of the day, you lose a guy who was shooting 50% from three, 50% from the field, and had a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio," head coach Mike Hopkins said. "But I thought our guys handled it pretty well. I thought Elijah [Hardy] in the first game, he didn’t make any shots, but defensively I thought he was playing pretty good.
Hardy made his first career start against Stanford, scoring two points and turning the ball over three times in 31 minutes. But despite Hopkins’ praise for him after the game, it was sixth man Jamal Bey who started at point in Green’s absence against Cal two days later.
Bey had 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists in 33 minutes against the Bears, but the Huskies still lost to a Cal team that lost to Santa Clara by 19 in the nonconference season.
"At Cal we just made mistakes late," Hopkins said. "We started really playing hard when we were down — really happy with the guys how hard they played — but we were down too far and couldn’t make some plays down the stretch. Sometimes people make those types of shots, and hopefully we put ourselves in a position where we’re not in that position."
The loss of Green has had two major impacts on the UW’s offense. In his absence, Washington has had a combined 15 assists. In the same timeframe, they’ve turned the ball over 34 times. In the 15 games he played, Green led the team in assists per game at 5.3 and still ranks No. 52 in the nation with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.26. According to KenPom, 35% of Washington's made field goals were assisted by the sophomore.
The other part of Green’s game the Huskies have missed is his shot from range. Washington’s three-point shooting has been nothing short of abysmal since the beginning of conference play, ranking dead-last in the Pac-12 in three-point shooting percentage in four games. Green was the only player shooting above 30% behind the arc.
"We’re one of the worst turnover teams in the country," Hopkins said. "We’ve got to be able to hit open shots. We’re one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. And one of the things we’ve always held our hat on is defending the three-point line, and we’re eighth in the league right now. The last two years we’ve been number one. I know that’s a simple version, but it’s really true."
Though things that haven’t looked good since Green was ruled ineligible, there is a chance that the Huskies have been able to use this week of practice to adjust their system and improve.
But this week’s matchup will be tough for a team in transition like Washington. On Thursday, they take on an Oregon State team that dismantled a more-talented Arizona squad 82-65. Two days later, Washington welcomes No. 8 Oregon, the team that beat them in the Pac-12 championship game last year.
If that wasn’t tough enough for the Huskies, this weekend becomes even more crucial because it will be the only time Washington gets to play the Oregon schools in the regular season. And with limited chances to raise their RPI against a school of Oregon’s quality, this weekend could have major implications for the Huskies’ suddenly fading tournament hopes.
"This is not about Jaden, it’s not about Isaiah, it’s not about Naz, this is our team and we know we have enough," Hopkins said. "We’ve got to become better in certain areas if we want to win, and I know these guys want to win. We work on it every day, those are the things that we’ve just got to be able to do."
Reach Assistant Sports Editor Andy Yamashita at email@example.com. Twitter: @ANYamashita
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