Senior C.J. Wilcox drives on UConn's Shabazz Napier. Wilcox led the UW in scoring with 19, but couldn't help his team to a victory, as UConn took the win 82-70.
Senior C.J. Wilcox drives on UConn's Shabazz Napier. Wilcox led the UW in scoring with 19, but couldn't help his team to a victory, as UConn took the win 82-70.Photo by Andrew Tat
Head coach Lorenzo Romar noticed an ugly trend Saturday. After starting the season with commendable ball security in its first seven games, the Washington men’s basketball team had turned the ball over in double-figures in three straight games. Romar told the media he didn’t understand his team’s recent habit and said whatever the cause was, he needed to fix it before the Huskies hosted No. 10 Connecticut.
That didn’t happen.
Sunday, the UW built a double-digit lead in the first 13 minutes over the visiting Huskies before floundering through the rest of the game en route to an 82-70 loss to UConn.
Both Husky teams combined for 31 turnovers, 16 going against the UW and 15 on UConn. The UW has had 63 combined turnovers in its past four games, which is the same number it committed throughout the first seven games of the season.
“The turnover story made the difference in the game," Romar said. "We didn’t do a very good job of taking care of the basketball. This has been a recurring issue for us in these last four games. … whether it’s been against Tulane, Idaho State, or San Diego State, it’s kind of been the same issue so that bit us in the buns in this game.”
Senior C.J. Wilcox led the UW with 19 points, while UConn senior Shabazz Napier led all scorers with 20. Junior guard Mike Anderson scored 10 points while pulling down a team-leading eight rebounds.
The UW steadily built a 14-point lead over the visitors, holding UConn to a 7-of-17 shooting start from the floor. UConn came into Hec Edmundson Pavilion as the nation’s best 3-point shooting team, but missed its first six attempts from long range. Wilcox hit back-to-back 3-pointers, which helped the UW grab its largest lead of the game at the 7:03 mark, but UConn rallied back to tie the score on a 3-pointer from Ryan Boatright before taking a four-point lead into halftime.
“They went on a big run, but a lot of that had to do with us,” Wilcox said. “We weren’t executing plays and we were making silly turnovers. We expected the run to happen; we just have to do better keeping it at bay.”
UConn buried the UW with a 28-6 run to end the first half and the home team could never get out of the hole.
“Right now, we are not mature enough to handle runs from the other team and not mature enough to handle the adversity that comes along throughout the season,” Romar said. “And conference season starts here pretty quickly ... so we better grow up quickly.”
Junior forward Desmond Simmons made his season debut in the first half to a huge ovation from the UW crowd. Simmons had been sidelined since getting arthroscopic surgery on his knee before the start of the season and quickly helped the
UW by making his first two field goals, including an open 3-pointer that brought the crowd to its feet. However, his return was largely soured by foul trouble as he finished with five points, one rebound, and four fouls.
The UW’s poor end to the first half carried over after intermission as it committed four turnovers before even scoring in the period. Timely 3-point shooting and some key defensive stops kept UConn within reach, but turnovers kept the UW from getting closer than eight points in the final 13 minutes of the second half.
The UW committed 11 of its 16 turnovers in the second half and shot 39.1 percent from the field after the break. Freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss struggled mightily with three turnovers to no assists and six points. UConn was 12-of-20 shooting in the second half, scoring 15 points off turnovers.
With one final home stand left in the nonconference season remaining, the Huskies are running out of time to prepare for Pac-12 play. Four of their first six conference games are on the road, starting with a trip to the desert to face the Arizona schools and a matchup with the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Jahii Carson and Arizona State.
Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @thucnhi21
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