SEATTLE — It’s been an interesting past two weeks for the Washington Huskies.
The Huskies reeled off four straight wins and did it by holding opponents under 40 percent from the field in the second half. Thursday was another reminder of how quickly things can change in college basketball.
Utah, after shooting 27.3 percent to start, pulled away by shooting 70 percent for the rest of the game. This is how the Utes sent the Huskies to a 70-58 defeat and to a three-game losing streak. It’s the first three-game losing streak UW (17-9, 7-6 Pac-12) has endured under first-year coach Mike Hopkins. The Huskies dropped consecutive games at Oregon and Oregon State last weekend. They also already lost to Utah, 70-62, on Jan. 19.
“In the second half, we just didn’t have that pop. That’s why you saw a lot of guys coming off the bench,” Hopkins said. “We need energy. It’s a defensive game. You let good shooters get open shots, they’re going to knock them down eventually.”
Hopkins had four players log more than 25 minutes with guard David Crisp and Jaylen Nowell receiving the most time.
Crisp, after playing 50 minutes against Oregon State, was on the floor for 35. He also led the Huskies with 18 points and was the only UW player to crack double figures.
Nowell stayed on for a game-high 39 minutes and shot 3-for-12 with nine points and four rebounds.
UW shuffled through its rotations only to watch an eight-point halftime lead quickly disappear due to Utah (16-9, 8-6) attacking the paint and then stretching the Huskies’ 2-3 zone defense.
Utes forward David Collette got inside for a dunk and hit another shot from the post. Collette, who came in averaging 12.6 points, led all scorers with 22 points while shooting 8-for-10 from the field.
Once Tyler Rawson connected on a shot from the high post, it prompted the Huskies to collapse inside. The Utes countered by taking four straight 3-pointers, nailing three of them.
Between Collette and Rawson, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds, the Utes scored 30 in the paint. It’s also how they overcame shooting 7-for-22 from the 3-point line to hit 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in the final frame.
“Lack of energy,” Huskies junior guard Matisse Thybulle said about his team’s defensive effort in the second half. “We just didn’t play hard.”
Washington grabbed points in spurts to stay around but didn’t find any real momentum until Nahziah Carter hammered home a one-handed putback dunk.
His slam made it 51-45 with 6:46 to go and suddenly brought life to Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Less than two minutes later, the Utes went on a quick 6-0 run to create some distance and a 57-40 edge. The Huskies would shoot 36.7 percent in the second half and were outscored 46-26.
A lackluster finish came immediately after the Huskies found a balance to finish the first half.
UW went on 12-2 run to close out the opening frame.
Crisp scored inside for a layup and on the next possession, he attracted enough attention to hit Thybulle for an open 3-pointer.
Thybulle’s 3 was only the start. Junior guard Dominic Green’s three free throws along with points from Nowell and Hameir Wright gave the Huskies a 32-24 lead.
It also helped that the Huskies held the Utes to under 30 percent from the field and less than 19 percent from distance.
“Guys letting off the gas,” Crisp said of the second half. “A lead means nothing in this league. I don’t care if its 20. We’ve been in games where we’ve been down 20 and came back and won. … A lead means nothing.
“When we start playing like the game’s over and it’s all secure, that’s when your vulnerable.”