The number of 3-point attempts UW had that hit nothing but air Sunday afternoon turned out to be indicative of the chances the team had to beat No. 11 UCLA.
Washington trailed by 14 midway through the first half and – aside from a brief spell that cut the deficit to five – never managed to regain momentum in the second half. The Huskies (9-6, 1-4) trailed 18 with 13:13 remaining in the game. It only got worse, ending with a 25-point defeat at home, 74-49, and a sweep for the southern California schools.
“I will tell you I thought we fought,” UW head coach Mike Hopkins said after the game. “We just couldn’t make a shot. I think we were, what, 1 for 14 from the 3-point line. Felt like probably 10 of them were good ones. Four of them were probably rushed. For the most part I like how we battled. UCLA’s one of the top teams in the country for a reason.”
As Hopkins noted, the Huskies three-point shooting turned out to be a double-edged knife to the team. UW missed its first 10 shots from deep until freshman guard Koren Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:09 remaining in the first half.
It was a crucial shot at the time, cutting the deficit to seven, 26-19. Senior guard Cole Bajema added two of his with 4:26 left, a five-point score difference that never would come any closer. Senior Jamal Bey scored with 1:46 to make it 30-25 UCLA, but then the Bruins went on another quick run to close out the first half ahead 36-27.
“No, we like – if we get the right guys like I said before. Jamal Bey has been a good three-point shooter in his career. He gets an open three. We felt like we could expose that. Sometimes you just miss ‘em,” Hopkins said, when asked about the teams’ shot selection in the first half.
Junior center Braxton Meah was the lone bright spot for the Huskies on Sunday. Meah scored 13 points on a perfect six of six shooting from the floor in the second half to try and fight until the end. He was on the receiving end of a couple lob passes from Johnson and others to slam home a dunk and provide a spark.
He did his job, finishing with a game-high 20 points on 9 of 10 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and a pair from the line.
Bajema was unfortunate to not have his first three three-point attempts go down. All three were on target and hit every part of the rim but didn’t fall through. Outside of Johnson – who finished with seven points – Meah and Bajema, the rest of the team combined for 13 points on 4 of 26 shooting from the floor.
Freshman guard Keyon Menifield left the game with 16:21 remaining in the game and did not return. Hopkins said after the game he didn’t have a specific update on the injury or extent of it. He was told he couldn’t go back in the game and that was all he knew prior to his post game remarks.
Washington heads out on the road next week to face No. 5 Arizona on Thursday before concluding the road trip in Tempe against Arizona State on Sunday.