SEATTLE — It would have been easy for the Washington Huskies, who entered Thursday night having lost four of their past five games, to continue a downward descent after discovering Jaden McDaniels wouldn’t be able to play against Oregon State. The dynamic freshman forward who is second on the team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks tweaked his left ankle last Saturday and hadn’t practiced all week.
McDaniels tested his ankle during pregame warmups and insisted he could play, but UW coach Mike Hopkins held him out as a precaution and expects him to play Saturday against No. 8 Oregon.
“When I heard that J-Mac wasn’t playing, you’re kind of going, ‘Uh-oh, let’s see how we can do it,’” Hopkins said. “Next man up. Those guys, you saw what they did. I’m really proud of them.”
Former Marysville Pilchuck star RaeQuan Battle was one of the players that stepped up in a big way.
Battle, who replaced McDaniels in the lineup and helped lead the Huskies to a 64-56 win, learned that he was getting his first career start just two minutes before the game. And his reaction?
“I just repeated what coach said — ‘I’m starting?’ ” Battle said. “I’ve just got to take advantage of every opportunity, so I took advantage of it.”
Oregon State couldn’t have had much of a scouting report on Battle, considering he entered the game with just eight points for the season on 3-for-12 shooting. However, the 6-foot-5 sharpshooter, who set scoring records at Marysville Pilchuck, provided an early spark while converting three of five 3-point attempts for 11 points — all in the first half — and three steals.
“It just brought me back to high school,” Battle said. “Coming into college and not playing a long time, it messes with you. But Coach told me to be ready all year. As soon as I got in and the shots went in, I just said it’s my time. It’s our time.”
Battle’s blistering perimeter assault led Washington to a 31-21 advantage at halftime and forced Oregon State to expand its defense, which provided room inside for Isaiah Stewart, who scored 11 of his team-high 13 points in the second half.
“When we have another shooter out there on the floor they have to pick their poison,” said Stewart, who also had five rebounds and four blocks.
After draining his first two 3-pointers, which would have been good from NBA range, the crowd of 8,207 at Alaska Arena Airlines rose in anticipation every time Battle touched the ball.
However, he didn’t attempt a shot during 6-plus minutes of action in the second half.
It hardly mattered.
The Huskies (12-6, 2-3 Pac-12) received 11 points from Marcus Tsohonis and Jamal Bey, who made his second consecutive start at point guard, and 10 points from Nahziah Carter.
In their third game without point guard Quade Green, who is academically ineligible, the Huskies finally looked comfortable offensively under the direction of Bey and Tsohonis.
Washington finished with just eight turnovers, its second-fewest this season. The Huskies also converted 25 of 50 field goals and had 13 assists.
“Obviously it sucks not having Quade and Jaden, but … RaeQuan stepped up,” Stewart said. “Marcus stepped up. These guys are ready. We work hard in practice, and they were ready for it.”