By Sebastian Pycior
The Washington Huskies season continues its nosedive following last night’s loss against the Utah Utes. In fact, maybe this loss should have been predicted, as the results nearly matched the outcome of the last meeting between the two teams. The Utes beat the Huskies 70 – 58 last night on Montlake.
Noah Dickerson was completely shut down by the Utes’ defense, and the Huskies struggled to find any offense during this game. Besides David Crisp’s 18 points, no other Husky finished with more than 9 points.
Barring a PAC-12 tournament win from the Huskies, it doesn’t look like the Huskies will be attending March Madness this season, most likely finding themselves in the National Invitation Tournament instead. However, this has still been a successful season for this Husky team, especially under the guidance under new coach Mike Hopkins. The Huskies take on Colorado on Saturday evening.
Down in Southern California, the Oregon Ducks tragically fell short of upending the USC Trojans. Tied 70 – 70 in the final seconds, the Ducks trap defense was exposed as USC guard Jordan McLaughlin lobbed the ball to Chimezie Metu, who was waiting in the short corner behind Oregon’s MiKyle McIntosh.
McIntosh came up big for the Ducks, piling up 23 points. Sure the Ducks could’ve played better defense so as to not allow 70 points, but they also were well rounded on the offensive side of the ball. Pritchard contributed 17 points in the effort.
The Ducks have another tough matchup against UCLA this Saturday. If the Ducks can bounce back and regain momentum heading into next week, they have a decent chance at beating both Arizona teams.
As of now, the Ducks might have a better path to March Madness than the Huskies. This team only suffered one bad loss against the Stanford Cardinal a couple of weeks ago, but have largely stayed competitive in most of their games. The Huskies on the other hand, were easily handled by the Ducks, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech, twice to Utah, and to UCLA. For Washington, wins against Kansas and Arizona won’t be enough to overcome a bunch of blowouts.
Moving forward, both coaches need to find a way to motivate their players after tough losses. For the Huskies, they need Matisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell to start hitting shots from three point range again. They combined to make just 3 shots from downtown against the Utes, which didn’t help opening up the paint.
The Ducks suffered another loss at the buzzer, so they need to take this game against USC as another learning opportunity on how to finish games. Hindsight is forever 20/20, but coach Dana Altman should have had his team in a man-to-man defense through the end of regulation instead of disguising his trap defense. Altman had the Ducks start the final play in man defense, until McLaughlin broke away. It seemed as Altman knew exactly what the play was going to be, since the Ducks reacted to the breakaway on point. The Ducks sent both guards to chase the ball, while having their other three players sit in a zone defense.
Zone defenses puts too much trust on each player’s peripheral abilities instead of just having each one of your own defenders matchup individually. It’s important to make sure each offensive player gets knocked out of their desired path, and USC’s Metu got to the basket untouched after Oregon’s attempt at trapping McLaughlin.
It was a tough lesson today for Pacific Northwest basketball, and maybe there’s a miracle in the works for both of these teams. Both Hopkins and Altman will need to quickly reset before the weekend in order to keep any hope at March Madness alive.