By Christian Caple The News Tribune
EUGENE, Ore. — So well-manicured are the floors and walls at Matthew Knight Arena, even on the court-level concourses, that they nearly shine, even in this palace’s fourth year of existence.
All that glitz served as a fair backdrop as Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar stood against one of those walls on Wednesday night, speaking of better focus and mental toughness after another UW loss away from home.
There was more shine to this loss than the six road defeats that preceded it. But a loss is a loss no matter how encouraging the accompanying assessments, and this 78-71 setback against the Oregon Ducks is simply the latest in a season full of them.
Make it seven consecutive Pacific-12 Conference road losses for the Huskies (14-13, 6-8 Pac-12) now, with only one chance remaining — Saturday at Oregon State — to avoid ending that dubious skid.
“We definitely made progress tonight,” Romar said. “We have to take this, remember it and have the same focus when we go to Corvallis the next game.”
The difference on Wednesday was that Washington left the building feeling as if it could have — should have, maybe — won.
Oregon (17-8, 5-8) never led by more than eight points, and even after the Ducks began the second half with a 10-0 run to take a 46-39 lead, the Huskies nudged their way back into it, eventually tying the score at 60-60 with 9:11 to play. They also won the rebounding battle, 33-21, and grabbed 14 offensive boards.
But familiar problems plagued them. Defensive assignments were missed, and Oregon shot 56.9 percent from the field. The Ducks’ top three scorers — Mike Moser (20 points), Joseph Young (18) and Damyean Dotson (17) — combined to make 22 of their 32 field-goal attempts. Oregon scored 38 points in the paint and 18 off turnovers.
The Ducks also found success guarding UW leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who struggled to get open and scored just nine points while going 2-for-8 from the field. Wilcox also was slowed by a tailbone problem after he took a hard fall early in the first half.
Yet there the Huskies were, their first road victory since Jan. 2 at least in their sights, and then …
“We played good enough to win. It’s just a couple of key things down the stretch we didn’t do that let the game get away from us,” said UW guard Andrew Andrews, who scored 15 points.
“I felt like we would make a run and there would be a call, or they’d make a little run and they’d get back into it,” said senior forward Perris Blackwell, who asked Romar to come off the bench after starting 25 consecutive games. He led UW with 17 points in 33 minutes.
A “big, big play” that went against the Huskies, Romar said, was the charging call whistled against guard Nigel Williams-Goss with 5:50 to play.
Mike Anderson had snagged a rebound and pushed the ball ahead to Williams-Goss, who went up for a shot attempt as UO’s Johnathan Loyd slid beneath him. The ball went in the hoop. But Williams-Goss was called for a charging foul.
Had it been called a block, Williams-Goss would have been at the free-throw line with UW trailing 71-67 with 5:50 to go. Instead, UO’s lead remained 71-65.
“This year with the rules adjustment on the block-charge, I just thought it might have been a block based on how the game was called earlier and how that one went,” said a restrained Romar afterward. “It was a judgment call, and that’s what it is.”
Williams-Goss did cut the Ducks’ lead to 73-70 with 2:34 to go. And after Loyd committed one of UO’s 13 turnovers, the Huskies had a chance to cut the lead even further.
But Desmond Simmons, who scored 12 points, missed a layup on the other end, Oregon rebounded, and Moser eventually scored while drawing Simmons’ fifth foul with 1:31 to play.
UW didn’t make another field goal.
“Our guys weathered the storm, unlike some other games that we’ve played on the road where we just kind of faded,” Romar said. “I didn’t think we faded tonight. I think, again, we were a few plays away from getting over the hump, but we didn’t.”