By Christian Caple The News Tribune
BERKELEY, Calif. — California couldn’t have been impressed with Washington’s improved defense.
Or its offense. Or anything else the Huskies did during perhaps their most disheartening loss of the season.
UW has made considerable progress during the past few weeks, starting Pacific-12 Conference play with a 3-1 record while playing stout defense and well-executed offense. Those traits went missing — just like most of UW’s field-goal attempts — at Haas Pavilion on Wednesday, as Cal ripped the Huskies 82-56 before a crowd of 8,072.
“They thoroughly were the better team against us tonight. Hats off to them,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said in a hallway outside of the visiting locker room. “We couldn’t really do anything right. We were outrebounded. We didn’t shoot the ball well. We didn’t finish. They chewed us up when they had the basketball. They beat us pretty soundly tonight.”
This looked more like the disjointed Huskies team of November and December, though even then they could score. UW looked lost offensively for the first time this conference season, struggling its way to a 7-for-29 shooting performance in the first half, finishing with a 30.2 percent clip from the field.
C.J. Wilcox, the Pac-12’s second-leading scorer, couldn’t get open for most of the first half, though he finished with a team-high 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting (but just 2-for-7 on 3-pointers). His teammates forced shots, and when they missed, Cal usually cleaned the glass. The Bears won the rebounding battle 44-33.
Cal’s size was a problem.
“I thought they had a lot of length all around the floor,” Wilcox said. “They altered a lot of shots, got in the passing lanes, deflections. We couldn’t really get in a flow in our offense. They were switching a lot of stuff. We haven’t really dealt with that this year much. So that’s an adjustment. But overall, the just outplayed us.”
Of course, the Golden Bears (13-4, 4-0 in Pac-12) had something to do with how poorly the Huskies played. Senior forward Richard Solomon, the conference’s leading rebounder and a 6-foot-10 presence, was a matchup problem for UW inside and finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Tyrone Wallace, a sophomore guard, slashed his way through UW’s defense for 14 points. Leading scorer Justin Cobbs, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, finished with 11 points. David Kravish added 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Jeff Powers scored 12 as Cal shot 55 percent from the field.
Cal proved just as adept defensively, using its athleticism to close off passing lanes and contest nearly every shot the Huskies attempted.
All those missed shots hurt UW on the other end of the floor, too.
“I thought tonight,” Romar said, “we allowed us not seeing the ball go in the basket enough to affect us on the defensive end.”
After the Huskies (11-7, 3-2) opened the game with an 8-2 lead, Cal used the rest of the second half as one big run. The Bears used jumpers and driving layups, aggressive defense and strong rebounding to outscore UW 28-9 until halftime, at which point the Huskies trailed 30-17.
It didn’t get any better for the visitors. Cal’s lead swelled to 47-26 after Powers banked in a 3-pointer and absorbed a foul from UW guard Andrew Andrews, then made the ensuing free throw.
Five minutes later, it was 61-33, the Bears reeling off a 12-0 run while slapping UW’s shots out of bounds and doing more or less as they pleased. Cal’s largest lead was 29 points.
“They gained some confidence,” Romar said, “and there it went.”
Washington seeks a split of this road trip with a visit to Stanford at 8 p.m. Saturday.
“We just have to accept what happened, move on and get a split, and we have to look at it that way,” Wilcox said. “We can’t dwell on it too much.
“If our minds aren’t right, the same thing could happen.”