Andrew Andrews responds from the quietest game of his season with a career high-tying 21 points. But a 17-0 run by Cal erases UW’s 12-point lead and the Huskies’ home-court winning streak. Next: At Oregon on Wednesday night.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE -- This time, for the first time since Pac-12 play began with the new calendar year, the road happened at home.
And it left Lorenzo Romar ready to evaluate how he prepares his Huskies.
"After we were up 27-15, we began to play like we play on the road. ... We just have to be mentally tougher. We have to be able to point ourselves in the other direction when we see the ball's not going in the basket," Romar said after California's stunning, 17-0 run ruined Washington's big early lead Saturday afternoon.
Despite Andrew Andrews' emphatic, career-day response to not scoring and barely playing three days earlier, the Huskies never recovered from 5 decisively dreadful minutes of the first half in the 72-59 loss to Cal at Alaska Airlines Arena.
C.J. Wilcox, the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12 coming in, tied his season low with eight points on 4-for-12 shooting. The senior sharpshooter went 13½ minutes without an attempt during Cal’s game-turning run late in the first half, and had just three shots and two points by halftime.
The Huskies never got within five points of Cal after the decisive spurt.
It was the first loss for UW (14-12, 6-7 Pac-12) in eight home games dating to before Christmas. And it leaves the Huskies needing to just about win out -- beginning next week at Oregon and Oregon State -- over the final five regular-season games and then deep into next month's Pac-12 tournament to have any hope for the NCAA or any other postseason tournament.
"It definitely puts our backs against the wall," said Wilcox, whom Romar asked to be more aggressive in the second half as Cal -- like most opponents -- sent two and three defenders at him. "Definitely we have to claw and fight our way out and try to win the rest of our games."
First things first, though: Getting mentally tougher.
Pronto. The Huskies are 2-7 on the road entering Wednesday's test at Oregon.
"If the ball is not going in the basket, we still need to defend. We still need to guard. We still need to do the things that we were doing before ... that got us a (12-point) lead," Romar said. "We haven't been able to shift gears mentally at that point to do the things we know we are capable of.
"I'm one that when it's all said and done to go back and evaluate what I am doing as head coach. As head coach, I just haven't, we haven't, prepared this team to be mentally tougher."
Three days after not scoring a point and playing a season-low 5 minutes, Andrews made three consecutive 3-pointers early to put Washington ahead by 12. The sophomore guard finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, both tying career bests.Nigel Williams-Goss scored 12 points and Perris Blackwell had 10 points and 11 rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.
The Golden Bears (17-8, 8-4) had gone right at the Huskies inside and out in Berkeley on Jan. 15 in Cal’s 82-56 romp, and Romar wanted far more aggressiveness from the start by UW against the Bears this time.
As has happened in most home games this year, the Huskies took the game to their foe right away on Saturday.
Williams-Goss scored nine points early. Andrews got hot. While Cal started cold early from outside and inert inside, the Huskies led 27-15.
But then Washington committed the majority of its 10 first-half turnovers. Many were on the guards jump-passing into trouble, with no options once in the air. Wilcox went from the 13:55 mark until 9 seconds remained in the half between his second and third shots, and his only points of the opening half came on that final shot because of Cal goaltending.
"Turnovers," Andrews lamented. "They let them get out in transition, and they got a little feel (for the game). After that, they had momentum to build on."
Cal had a 20-7 edge in points off turnovers -- the exact margin of its third win in seven meetings with UW.
"We probably gave up eight points (in the first half) on home-run turnovers, easy buckets for them," Andrews said. "We were just not taking care of the ball, rushing things, just trying to go too fast."
The Bears ended the half on a 19-2 run, Washington's only basket coming on Wilcox's third shot which Cal goaltended. That whiteashed all of that early Husky energy and lead, as UW trailed 34-29 at the break.
Cal’s lead got to 50-37 with 13 minutes left, with Wilcox stuck on two made baskets for the game. Like Stanford on Wednesday, Colorado last Sunday and every other Pac-12 opponent, the Bears sent forwards running out at Wilcox in addition to the guard that was defending him as he came off screens to shoot outside.
"Yeah, it's tough for me. I don't want to force the issue," said Wilcox, who also scored eight in the loss at Colorado. "That's what I'd have to do to be aggressive. ... But, yeah, it's tough to force the issue when they send two guys at you."
Desmond Simmons’ scrappy offensive rebounds plus Mike Anderson’s drives, passes and free throws sent the Huskies on a 6-0 to get within 50-43. When Andrews scored with 10:39 left, UW trailed 50-45.
The rest of the game was a frustrating fight to get closer than that.
Romar said his message to his players in the locker room after this one was simple, yet difficult so far to achieve.
"I don't know if we can do it in three days, but we have to have a mental adjustment fast before we get out on the road," Romar said.
"We've got to make sure that mentally -- don't worry about anyone else -- each one, to a man, we can maintain that mental focus throughout the game. Especially now that we are going on the road."