At their worst, Washington’s players looked confused on both ends of the court. The new high-post offense sputtered at the start for the fifth straight game and the Huskies lost track of Nevada players who found holes in UW’s zone defense.
After falling behind by 18 points and on the verge of suffering its second blowout defeat at home, Washington mounted a second-half comeback Saturday that thrilled the crowd of 7,724 at Alaska Airline Arena. However, the good times were short-lived.
The Huskies led for a total of 13 seconds and in the end they fell 76-73 once again to Nevada and Deonte Burton. The score was identical to last year’s overtime upset in Reno, and the late-game heroics from the Wolf Pack point guard were similar as well.
He finished with 29 points, two shy of his personal best that he set against the Huskies in the previous meeting. “Last year he did more at the end in one four-minute span,” Abdul Gaddy said, recounting Burton’s three-pointer as time expired to force regulation in the 2011 game. “This time he got going at the beginning and throughout the game he was scoring. He got a lot of buckets in transition when we weren’t organized.”
Washington surrendered 14 points to Nevada due to defensive lapses when it played zone in the first half.
“When they hit shots and they’re contested there’s nothing you can do,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “But when you break down defensively it hurts you.”
Too often the Huskies (4-4) appeared to be a team in search of an identity. They fluctuated offensively between the new high-post offense and the old motion offense. They also needed to resort to zone due to an inability to keep Burton out of the lane.
“We just haven’t come together yet,” Romar said. “We haven’t become a consistent team yet. “It will just take time, practice, everyone getting healthy (and setting a) rotation. I told our guys that I don’t look at this situation as, oh, we’re done. I don’t see it that way at all. It is just a matter of time, and I really believe that.”
After overcoming an 18-point deficit, the Huskies ran out of time against Nevada. Washington trailed 34-26 at halftime and fell behind 53-35 when Burton drained a three-pointer in the corner with 14:36 left.
The Huskies answered with a 12-0 run that began when Gaddy tossed an alley-oop pass to C.J. Wilcox, who raced along the baseline before dropping a two-handed dunk.
The spurt included three-pointers from Wilcox and Scott Suggs, a short jumper from Shawn Kemp Jr. and an emphatic fast-break flush from Gaddy that got the crowd going.
“We got back in it,” Gaddy said. “We got stops.” Washington took its first lead (63-61) when Suggs hit a three-pointer with 5:21 left. However, on the next possession Burton converted a three-point play that gave the Wolf Pack (5-4) the lead for good. The 6-foot-1 junior scored 12 of his team’s final 14 points, including two high-arching three-pointers over Wilcox with less than three minutes left.
“Big players make big plays,” Nevada coach David Carter said. “When they went on their run, I think they made two three-point shots. He made a big three-point play.”
Washington went 1 for 6 in the final two minutes before Wilcox hit a three at the buzzer. He finished with 21 points. Suggs, who returned after missing the previous three games due to plantar fasciitis, had 19.
Gaddy added 16 points, and Aziz N’Diaye had 11 points and eight rebounds. The Huskies also received 13 rebounds from Desmond Simmons. Kemp, who made his season debut, had five points and four rebounds.
With five nonconference games remaining, including Thursday’s game against Seattle University at KeyArena, Romar said the Huskies’ No. 1 priority is to remain confident.
“We have to keep our guys believing and keep everyone’s heads up,” he said. “Don’t listen to the negativity. We’re not shutting down the program.”
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