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Stevenson can't save Washington from poor three-point defense against Cal

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Three-point defense sends Washington to sixth straight loss

Erik Stevenson drives to the hoop in the first half of Washington’s game against Montana at Alaska Airlines Arena on Dec. 16, 2020. Stevenson scored a season-high 27 against California Jan. 9, 2021.

With 2:18 on the clock, and the Washington men’s basketball team trailing 73-75, senior point guard Quade Green hit a floater in the lane to tie the game, giving the UW a chance to win its first Pac-12 game of the season. 

Instead, the Huskies (1-9, 0-5 Pac-12) were outscored 9-3 in the final 138 seconds to lose 84-78. It’s Washington’s sixth straight defeat and the team remains winless in conference play. Head coach Mike Hopkins said the loss simply came down to poor execution. 

“We couldn’t get stops,” he said. 

Facing a California team without its leading scorer Matt Bradley, Washington’s defense couldn’t get the stops it needed coming down the stretch. A 12-0 Cal run starting near the midway point of the second half killed the UW’s momentum, and poor execution on both ends meant the Huskies came up just short despite a ferocious comeback.

Washington went into halftime down eight even after playing some of its most dynamic offense of the season. The Golden Bears (6-7, 1-5 Pac-12) shot 46.7% from the floor and junior Andre Kelly stepped up offensively for Bradley, starting the night a perfect 7-of-7 for 14 points in the first half. 

Out of the break the Huskies fought back though, going on a 27-12 run powered by Green and junior Erik Stevenson. The forward, who has had a difficult introduction to the Pac-12, exploded offensively against the Bears. He scored a season-high 27 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and flashed the three-point range he was touted for before the season, hitting 6-of-9 attempts from beyond the arc. Hopkins thinks Stevenson’s confidence led to his steller play. 

“The biggest thing is that he’s a good player,” he said. “Sometimes you let your mind get the best of you but he came out, we were able to get him going a bit early and I think that helped.”

Washington also got contributions from junior Jamal Bey, who was an efficient 7-of-10 from the floor for 18 points, and sophomore J’Raan Brooks, who added eight points and was perfect from the floor. The Huskies had trailed by as many as 13, but grabbed a four point lead with 10 minutes to play. 

Then, the Huskies defense fell apart. Cal’s 12-0 run was capped by difficult three-pointers made by graduate transfer Makale Foreman on consecutive possessions, something Stevenson thinks may have cost Washington the game.

“I’m not sure if it was what Cal was doing moreso than what we were not doing which was taking away the three,” he said. “It’s just getting stops. They were pretty consistent with what they were doing and we were not consistent enough getting stops and that’s how they won the game.”

The Bears shot 58.3% from deep in the second half, with Foreman in particular punishing the Huskies with a 4-of-6 performance after the break. Hopkins said the defensive performance was the complete opposite of the identity he wants his teams to embody. 

“That’s just not who we are,” he said. “That’s what’s the most frustrating especially when we did take the lead and we had it, we just gave up the three — end of shot clocks we usually take it away. That just can’t happen. It’s not who we are and we gotta execute better for sure.”

Washington continues its road trip next week when it travels south to take on the Los Angeles schools, starting with a 6:30 matchup against USC at the Galen Center Thursday, Jan. 14.

Reach Sports Editor Andy Yamashita at Twitter: @ANYamashita

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