SEATTLE – It was only 12 days ago when the Dawg Pack stormed the court after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Dom Green gave the Washington Huskies a dramatic victory over ninth-ranked Arizona.
UW fans were upset a couple of days later when the Huskies weren’t ranked in the top 25.
That was then and this is now. The Huskies have lost three consecutive games after sleepwalking through the second half Thursday night in a 70-58 loss to Utah at Alaska Airlines Arena.
What happened? How did this team go from one of the biggest regular-season wins in school history to a dismal eight-day stretch that all but eliminated any realistic shot at making the NCAA Tournament?
The Huskies (17-9 overall and 7-6 in Pac-12 play) came back down to Earth with a thud after expectations got a little out of kilter. It’s easy to forget that this team was 9-22 a year ago and won only two conference games.
UW coach Mike Hopkins wants to keep things in perspective, despite the three-game losing streak.
“These guys have done a hell of a job,’’ Hopkins said. “You’ve just gotta fight through these tough times. It’s not the end of the world.”
It is disappointing, however, for a group of guys who thought they were headed to the NCAA Tournament and now find themselves trying to regain their vigor.
The heartbreak started last weekend in a 97-94 loss in double-overtime at Oregon State when the Huskies blew a 13-point second-half lead.
Things got worse Thursday night. UW led 32-24 at the half, but fell flat in the second half and were outscored 46-26 by the Utes (16-9, 8-6). Utah shot 70 percent (14 of 20) in the last 20 minutes.
“We’ve got to be hungry,’’ said UW point-guard David Crisp, who led the Huskies with 18 points. “Nobody is going to give you a game. We’ve got to play every night like it’s our last game, and that means a full effort for 40 minutes.”
UW forward Noah Dickerson was the National Player of the Week after his performance against Arizona State and Arizona two weeks ago, but he had trouble with Utah’s two big men Thursday.
Posts David Collette and Tyler Rawson (both 6-10) combined for 37 points and 16 rebounds. Dickerson and UW forward Sam Timmins combined for 7 points and 7 rebounds.
“There were moments where it looked like we were in quick sand,’’ Hopkins said. “We were looking for energy, but sometimes you can see in their eyes they just don't have it and we didn't have it tonight.”
It happens, especially for a team with a new coach that is wading through uncharted territory. But the Huskies have five regular season games left, including what will be an emotional night Saturday when the school retires the number of Isaiah Thomas.
The Huskies still can finish with 20 victories and probably make the NIT Tournament. They hit a rough patch, but these players and this coach deserve praise for what they’ve accomplished this season.
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