In a somber Staples Center locker room, C.J. Wilcox stuffed his backpack with a Washington-monogrammed Beats by Dr. Dre headphone, a postseason gift from the Pac-12 Conference.
It felt like a consolation prize.
“We were hoping to take home something much better than this,” the sophomore guard said. “It’s just disappointing.”
Following Thursday’s upset loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, the top-seeded Huskies returned to Seattle earlier than expected and filled with regrets.
Their list of laments began with the shocking 86-84 defeat to the No. 9-seeded Beavers, but it didn’t stop there.
If only they’d been able to close out games against UCLA, Nevada and Marquette this season, the Huskies wouldn’t be nervously anticipating the decision of the NCAA tournament selection committee.
So many times this season, Washington was a flick of fate’s wrist from turning a close defeat into a big win. The Huskies easily could have been 23-8 or 25-6.
Instead, they’re 21-10 and will spend the next few days reliving past failures.
“Yeah, you do that to a degree, I guess,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Maybe more this year at this time than any other I can remember. You’d just like to have a few of those back.”
The Huskies lost six times by six points or less, but four defeats haunt them more than any others.
• Against Nevada, Washington led by three points when Tony Wroten Jr. fouled Deonte Burton near midcourt on a desperation 3-pointer with 6 seconds remaining in regulation. Burton sank the ensuing free throws to force overtime, and Washington lost 76-73 in the extra period.
• Against Marquette, Terrence Ross banked in a midrange jumper with 17 seconds left to give UW a one-point lead. A Marquette 3-pointer on the ensuing possession beat Washington 79-77.
• Against UCLA, Darnell Gant missed a 3-point attempt with 13 seconds left that would have given UW the lead. The Bruins won 75-69.
• Against Oregon State, the Huskies led by four with 1 minute remaining. They missed five of their last six free throws, including four by Wroten.
It’s not as if the Huskies were unable to succeed in the clutch. They won seven games by six points or less. They also won six of seven on the road before losing their last two.
Given their improved play at the end of the regular season, it was surprising Washington trailed Oregon State 46-33 at halftime and was down by as many as 15 in the second half.
“We just came out the wrong way,” Ross said after Thursday’s defeat.
Asked why, he said: “I don’t know. Can’t explain it.”
The Oregon State game was typical of Washington’s season. The Huskies staggered at the start, caught fire midway and appeared to be on their way to a fantastic finish before stumbling at the end.