By JOHN SLEEPER
SEATTLE – The Washington Huskies played their fourth game in eight days Tuesday night.
The dog-tired Huskies showed little pep and lost a 69-61 non-conference game to Saint Louis at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
“We definitely need some time off to get away from the physical side,” UW coach Bob Bender said. “There was some fatigue, but that wasn’t the only reason for the trouble we had.”
A collapse late in the first half cost Washington the game. The deliberate but effective Billikens erased a 19-15 deficit with a decisive push late in the first half and the Huskies never recovered.
“We weren’t making the extra pass,” Bender said. “We were hitting the first available man. We got a four-point lead, then our offense hurt our defense. Instead of getting better shots, we turned it over and didn’t get any shots.”
The defeat led Bender to meet with his five seniors after the game, separately from the rest of the team.
“We’re the seniors and we need to lead the team,” senior guard Bryan Brown said. “He just asked us what we thought about what we needed to win basketball games. That was basically what it was about.”
Saint Louis forward Maurice Jeffers led all scorers with 18 points. Will Perkins led the Huskies with 15 – 13 in the second half.
Cold shooting and porous defense, likely stemming from fatigued legs, had much to do with Washington’s dismal showing. The Huskies looked every bit the team that needs a 10-day break, which Washington faces while taking final exams for the fall quarter. The Huskies (3-3) play at Florida International Dec. 16 before moving on to the Puerto Rico Holiday Classic in San Juan, Dec. 20-22.
“There are two reasons we’d like to have played better,” Bender said. “One is you like to win. When you go to 4-2, you start to feel pretty good about yourself. Then you go on the road and you have more confidence. But we’re 3-3 and FIU is going to be a huge game for us because we want to get back above .500 going to Puerto Rico.”
Saint Louis (5-1), sloppy, tentative and cold to start the game, settled down in its halfcourt offense and made Washington pay with layup after layup. The Billikens also overcame an early rebounding deficit and whipped the tired Huskies on the boards for 30 minutes.
The Billikens led by as many as 14 points in the second half. Washington cut it to eight on three occasions inside the final two minutes, but could get no closer.
The Billikens ended the first half with a 15-3 run in the last seven minutes. In that time, the Huskies were 1-for-8 from the floor and committed five turnovers. Washington went scoreless after Thalo Green’s 3-pointer with 5:43 remaining before intermission and trailed 30-22 at the half.
Forward Matt Baniak led the way for Saint Louis with six points. Of the Billikens’ last 15 first-half points, eight came on layups against a sluggish Husky defense.
Washington slogged through a cold first half, shooting just 9-for-31 from the floor. Take away forward Greg Clark’s 3-for-4 shooting from the floor in the first half, and the Huskies were 6-for-27.
The Huskies looked confused, even when things began on a positive note. Just one example: With about three minutes left in the half, Clark stepped into a passing lane and made a steal, but blew a layup.
Clark scored seven quick points to get the Huskies rolling, converting all three of his shots from the floor, including a 3-pointer, in the first 21/2 minutes. But his only other shot of the half was his missed layup following the steal.
Perkins, the Huskies’ leading scorer at 14.8 points a game, picked up two quick fouls and played just five first-half minutes. He had two points at intermission. Michael Johnson, who averaged 12.6 points a game, was scoreless in the first half, missing all three of his shots.
“We need Will in there,” UW reserve forward Grant Leep said. “With him on the bench for 15 minutes in the first half, that put us in a big hole because they were pounding it inside.”
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