TUCSON, Arizona – For extended periods on Monday night, the Washington men’s basketball team traded baskets in a shootout with the No.8-seeded Arizona Wildcats, which coach Mike Hopkins took qualified as one of the best teams in the country.
Even though the Huskies trailed most of the game – 38 and a half minutes in fact – they forced 21 turnovers and knocked out every little bit of Terrell Brown Jr. to put themselves in a position to capture an upset during their first game of Pac-12.
However, Arizona withdrew in the end and handed Washington a 95-79 loss in a competitive game that belies the final score.
“There were a lot of positives,” Hopkins said. “There is no consolation to lose, but I felt our children fought hard. ”
Brown, who entered the game leading the Pac-12 in scoring and ranked sixth nationally among Division I players, went out of his way to keep the Huskies close with the powerful offense. Arizona, which leads the nation in scoring (89.5 points per game).
The former Wildcat, which was peppered with “traitor” taunts from a crowd of 12,496 late arrivals to the McKale Center, finished with a high 28 points on 10 of 22 shots, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.
“Terrell Brown was spectacular,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “It’s the first time I’ve really seen him play and seen him. He gets a ton of credit for coming here tonight and (scoring 28 points) his former team.
“I told our guys he might win a few battles, but our ultimate goal is to win the war as a team and luckily we did that tonight.”
Brown was spectacular, but even with Emmitt Matthews Jr. adding 16 points, including four from three points, and PJ Fuller from 11 points, Washington couldn’t keep up with the Arizona trio of Bennedict Mathurin (27 points ), Christian Koloko (22 points and 10 rebounds) and Kerr Kriisa (21).
In their first year under Lloyd, Gonzaga’s longtime assistant, the Wildcats look like one of the early Pac-12 favorites and a potential NCAA Final Four team.
Mathurin and Kriisa exhausted all three open runs and challenged all three while combining to connect on 10 of 18 shots from behind the arc. Koloko scored in the paint against doubles teams and at times waved freely for crowd-pleasing alley-oop dunks.
And aside from 21 turnovers, Arizona has been incredibly effective offensively while delivering 28 assists, including eight from Dalen Terry, on 33 field goals.
It was too much for the Huskies, who entered the game as a 24½-point underdog.
“They’re so good offensively,” Hopkins said. “They get up a few plays here and there, then they get up early and they hit you like a UFC game. We stayed there. We stayed positive. We stayed together.
Washington kept pace with Arizona for the first four minutes before the Wildcats used an 11-0 streak to gain control early and take a 22-10 lead with 14:27 remaining in the first half. .
Arizona hammered the Huskies with a handful of scoring plays, including Mathurin’s windmill dunk on a quick break for a 39-26 lead over the Wildcats.
However, Washington remained in close contact thanks to a bullet-hawking defense that forced 10 first-half turnovers and Brown, who constantly probed inside the Arizona defense for an assortment of shots and of mid-range layups.
His short-flipping jumper reduced the UW’s deficit to 47-41 just before Azuolas Tubelis landed a shot that gave Arizona the lead 49-41 at halftime.
“We felt like we took their best shot and we were eight behind and had a chance to be behind six,” Hopkins said. “We took this as a positive point.”
The Huskies had their best streak in the second half when Daejon Davis hit a three and backup center Riley Sorn connected on a pullback before Matthews drained a pair of three runs to bring Washington down to 72-67 with 7:48 to play.
Arizona (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) responded with a 19-5 run to climb 91-72 with 2:09 remaining and the rout was underway.
Washington (5-6, 0-1), which fell below 0.500 for the first time this season, continued its three-game, seven-day road trip Thursday in Utah.
“We have a good, resilient group with experience,” Hopkins said. “What does Ted Lasso say, you have to have the mind of a goldfish and a memory of 10 seconds. Learn from it and move on.
“We played against a top 10 team at home and for the most part we did a really good job. ”