For 20 minutes, the Washington Huskies implied that Thursday night’s game at McKale Center might be another classic, a tit-for-tat reminder of how these affairs against the Arizona Wildcats used to go.
Then the second half started, and it was a reminder indeed. A reminder that the gap between 18th-ranked Arizona and these Huskies, resilient as they were in three victories to begin the Pac-12 schedule, might still be about as expansive as the desert that borders either side of Interstate 10.
The Huskies were glad to traverse that path back to Tempe, where they will reboot and hope for a split of this road trip at Arizona State on Saturday.
They didn’t seem to know what hit them in the second half of this 99-67 trouncing, which Arizona achieved by outscoring the Huskies 55-26 after halftime with an unrelenting torrent of dunks, 3-pointers and more dunks.
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Do the math: the Huskies trailed just 44-41 after the first half.
Arizona scored the first seven points of the second half.
Arizona scored 14 of the first 20 points of the second half.
Arizona scored 26 of the first 33 points of the second half, and the game was over.
Well, not actually over. They let the teams keep playing until the final buzzer. And at no point before that did the Wildcats stop attacking the rim, stop dunking, stop drawing fouls, stop scoring and scoring and scoring against a helpless UW defense.
In the end, UW coach Lorenzo Romar identified a single bright spot: “That it ended.”
“They just did whatever they wanted in the second half,” Romar said.
“We didn’t think we were going to come out flat like that,” said UW forward Marquese Chriss, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half.
“They just had way more energy than us,” said senior guard Andrew Andrews, the Pac-12’s leading scorer who managed only nine points, his first single-digit output in the last 27 games. “I felt like we came out, we were trying to play hard, do the right things, try to get stops, but they just made so many plays.”
And the Wildcats made 70.4 percent of their second-half field-goal attempts — 19 of 27, and 7 of 9 from 3-point range — and made 60.3 percent for the game.
Ryan Anderson led with 21 points and nine rebounds. Kaleb Tarczewski raged inside for 16 points and 13 rebounds, and might have had the play of the game when he drew Chriss’ fifth foul on a two-handed dunk atop the freshman’s head. Mark Tollefsen, starting in place of injured guard Allonzo Trier — who, by the way, is Arizona’s leading scorer — had 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the second half that gave Arizona a 64-47 lead, its largest of the game at the time.
Even in the first half, Arizona attacked UW’s interior and forced Chriss, Noah Dickerson and Malik Dime into foul trouble. Still, the Huskies trailed by only three points at halftime, and figured they would continue competing thereafter.
Then, they didn’t. Washington made only 30.3 percent of its second-half field-goal attempts after making 51.5 percent in the first half, and Romar thought that might have contributed to the Huskies’ defensive slippage.
Arizona (14-3, 2-2 in Pac-12) finished with nine dunks, 12 layups, 50 points in the paint and outrebounded the Huskies, 43-26.
“As we came down, possession after possession, ball not going in the basket, you could see us slowly defensively start to break down,” Romar said. “But they had a lot to do with that too. They created some really good mismatches against us, and with us in foul trouble, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do.”
It didn’t help that Andrews appeared to sprain his ankle late in the first half and was hobbled a bit in the second, though he finished the game. Romar said he thinks the senior guard will be OK for Saturday’s game at ASU, and Andrews, limping some as he walked toward his postgame interview, said the same.
There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere. But the Huskies (11-5, 3-1) swear they won’t let this stinker seep into their next task.
“We don’t have that type of team,” Andrews said. “Our team is built around high-character guys, high-will guys. We just dropped a big one and we got embarrassed, so we’ve got to come out with some passion and fire at Arizona State.”
For 40 minutes, this time.
Game in review
Player of the game: Ryan Anderson, a transfer from Boston College, led Arizona with 21 points and nine rebounds. He made 7 of 10 from the field and had four dunks, and also made 7 of 9 from the free-throw line.
It was over when: Arizona ripped off a 29-9 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half, though the Wildcats probably put it away a little earlier than that, because the Huskies simply did very little right on either end of the floor after halftime.
Stat of the game: The Wildcats had 21 dunks or layups, which helped account for their 50 points in the paint.
Quotable: “We were getting a lot more stops, and I think we were containing the ball a lot better off the dribble. We were denying the ball and fronting the post. Pretty much, we were doing everything we were supposed to do, and then we kind of just let it go downhill a little bit, and they took advantage of it.” — UW forward Marquese Chriss on what went right in the first half and wrong in the second.
What it means: This is by far the Huskies’ most embarrassing loss of the season, and it has to be particularly discouraging because they were so competitive in the first half. Maybe this is the kind of game a young team needs to experience before it can grow up. But there is little excuse for defending any team as poorly as the Huskies defended Arizona in the second half of this game, and it shows just how far UW has to go to be considered a true threat in the Pac-12.
Up next: Washington at Arizona State, 4 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network.