Sluggish Huskies fall to 0-2 with loss to UC Riverside

UW gets out-rebounded 49-33 and shoots just 29.6% from the field in a 57-42 defeat.

By Lauren Kirschman / The News Tribune

LAS VEGAS — In the final 8 minutes against UC Riverside — as Washington made its last-ditch attempt at a comeback — the Huskies missed 12 straight shots from the field. And that was only one their problems in a 57-42 loss to the Highlanders on Tuesday afternoon.

Here were a few more:

— Jamal Bey, a guard, didn’t grab UW’s first offensive rebounds until 3 minutes into the second half.

— The Huskies were out-rebounded 49-33 and finished with just five offensive rebounds.

— They shot 16-of-54 from the field, including 3-of-20 from the 3-point line.

— Senior point guard Quade Green was the only player to make more than three shots, and the only one to shoot better than 30% from the field.

When Green took questions from the media afterward, his responses were short and matter-of-fact. Even if he could, Green had no intention of sugarcoating the loss. There was no way to make it seem better.

On the status of the team, Green said: “We’re 0-2. That’s where we’re at.”

On the offense: “We just need to score more.”’

On the biggest issue in the first two games: “We just need to play harder.”

Simple, to the point — and definitely not wrong.

For the second straight game, the Huskies (0-2) looked like a team without an offensive identity. During the first years of head coach Mike Hopkins’ tenure, UW had dominant post presences in Noah Dickinson followed by Isaiah Stewart. Right now, the Huskies don’t have that player — which is why Hopkins said that UW would be more guard-heavy this season.

But so far, the Huskies have had little success with an offense that doesn’t run inside-out. It was a concern in the 86-52 loss to Baylor. Against the Highlanders (1-1), it became a trend — and not one UW would like to continue.

“We’re just trying to figure out what we can and what we cannot do, really,” Green said. “We didn’t have any exhibitions. The only thing we’ve been doing is practicing. It’s the second game of the season.”

UW went into halftime trailing 29-22 after shooting 36% from the field and 12.5% from the 3-point line — Green made the Huskies’ only shot from beyond the arc. To make matters worse, Green and forward Hameir Wright both missed the front end of a one-of-one in the final 2 minutes.

UC Riverside led by as many as 12 points in the second. UW used a 9-2 run, capped by a jumper by Green, to cut the advantage to six points, 44-38 with 9:03 left. But the Highlanders pushed the lead back to 11 with five quick points, and the Huskies couldn’t pull closer than eight after that.

Hopkins said his team, who played on Sunday night before hastily scheduling UC Riverside for Tuesday, looked both lethargic and less confident.

“They would never say it, but you could see it today,” Hopkins said. “They were a little hesitant. … We just didn’t have that same pop. We were missing layups to start the game. We were missing open passes. Those were things we got to be able to do. You got to be able to finish.”

Some concerning trends have emerged in UW’s first two games of the season. The Huskies have been out-rebounded a 99-52, including 35-10 on the offensive boards. They’ve shot 5-of-106 (33%) from the field and 8-of-44 (18%) from the 3-point line.

While Hopkins said four-guard lineups serve the Huskies best offensively, they also make rebounding more difficult. Asked how to solve that problem, Green was predictably blunt.

“That’s a good question,” Green said. “We’re still trying to figure that out.”

That’s true of a lot of things as UW turns it eyes toward the Pac-12 opener against Utah on Thursday. The Huskies will be facing another quick turnaround, and Hopkins admitted that scheduling UC Riverside in between Baylor and the Utes could’ve been a mistake.

But in a season with a shortened non-conference schedule and no exhibition games, Hopkins wanted to give his team a chance to play. He also wanted to give the Huskies a chance to rebound — literally and figuratively — after the loss to Baylor.

But they couldn’t do either.

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