The thing that surprised me the most about yesterday’s punchless 70-52 loss to Arizona wasn’t the fact that the Huskies completely fell apart in the disastrous second half, it was the way the people around me (at the apartment where I watched the game) seemed so frustrated and almost, dare I say, surprised about it. I don’t mean to be cynical, but really, this loss had to be expected. Losing by 18 is certainly a blowout, and that’s exactly what it was. And given the team Washington puts on the court each night, that is exactly what anyone should have expected, especially considering the fact that this game was played in Tuscon.
The season has mostly been bad throughout, and even from the very beginning the uncomfortably close 10-point win over Division II Western Washington University set a bad tone. The only truly positive stretch was the beginning of conference play, when Romar’s squad won their first four conference games, including three straight on the road. That string of victories honestly had me very optimistic that things might be turning around. But then four straight losses, including at home to Utah. That first loss to Arizona was very competitive, but that was at home, in a fairly fired up environment.
Since then, there has been no real reason to doubt the failure of this season. Growth by Andrew Andrews and Sean Kemp has been encouraging for the long term, but has fallen far short in terms of influencing the success of the current team. Andrews has even seemed to take a serious step back over the last four or five games, though Kemp has been a moderately steady source of offense.
But, even considering that the loss fell in line with the trajectory of the team this year, it is worth pointing out that this game represented a new low in a couple of specific ways. First, Aziz N’Diaye had the sort of odd, terrible game that sort of had people flipping the script on how they view the senior center. I would say for the most part this year N’Diaye has been more appreciated for his double-double capabilities than jeered for his mental lapses and fundamental weaknesses. But with his foul trouble, including an odd technical, his 1-6 shooting, and some iffy defense, it was an ugly night in almost every way for N’Diaye.
Also, the team as a whole seemed to be reaching a real boiling point. Romar was yelling and throwing his clipboard, players were arguing with each other on the court. After recent losses I’ve made a point of saying I didn’t think the players had given up on Coach Romar, but after this game, it just seems like we’re seeing a Lame Duck team. In the fourth, they were just going through the motions.
It certainly doesn’t bode well for Saturday’s road game against Arizona State, which could very well get ugly if Washington doesn’t come prepared to deal with Arizona State’s blistering tempo. I suppose it’s possible that the team successfully pulls it together enough to play hard at home against WSU, a team that has also had a rough year, but I honestly wouldn’t count on it at this point.
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, but that’s really not it at all. It’s a shrug, a “what can you do,” and more than anything, it’s “We’ll see next year.”