By Lauren Kirschman
McClatchy News Service
BERKELEY, Calif. — A desperately needed win was there for the taking.
Washington showed the fight head coach Mike Hopkins had been searching for, battling back from a 13-point second-half deficit to briefly take the lead. But when it came time to close out a victory, the UW men (1-9, 0-5 Pac-12) still stumbled.
Saturday’s game against Cal (6-7, 1-5) represented the struggling Huskies’ best chance to snap their losing streak and earn their first Pac-12 win. Instead, the Golden Bears finished on a 9-3 run to seal an 84-78 victory and hand UW its fifth-straight loss.
“It’s definitely not easy,” said junior guard Erik Stevenson. “It’s not easy for any of the guys. It’s not easy on me at all. I’ve never been in this position at all so it’s a learning position for myself as well as the team. It’s frustrating, to be honest. It’s frustrating losing games, whether it’s by five or 30. Losing’s losing. It sucks. We’re just searching for a win.”
UW trailed 40-32 at halftime, a lead Cal stretched to 13 points early in the second half. But the Huskies — for the first in a long time — didn’t fold. They put together a 21-5 surge, highlighted by three 3-pointers by Stevenson. The last one gave UW a 53-50 advantage with 12:59 remaining.
Hopkins credited the Huskies’ defense with fueling the run as the Golden Bears went 2-for-5 from the field and turned the ball over three times.
“We were getting stops,” Hopkins said. “We were defending. We were rotating, we were getting out in transition, we shared the ball — all the things we stress. When that happens, the ball’s going in, we’re flowing, we’re confident. When we’re not getting stops, it’s a little bit deflating.”
UW pulled ahead by four points, 59-55, on a J’Raan Brooks 3-pointer with 10:17 remaining. But then the Huskies defense started showing cracks just as the offense went cold. Cal put together a 12-0 run that put it up 67-59 with 7:20 remaining.
UW did find its footing again, going on a 12-4 run after the timeout. A Quade Green jumper with 3:38 left tied the game at 71. The Huskies never reclaimed the lead, but they did tie the game at 75-75 with 2:18 remaining.
Then Joel Brown drained a 3-pointer for Cal. Starting with that three, Cal outscored UW 9-3 in the final 1:55 of the game.
The Huskies’ only victory of the season came against Seattle U on Dec. 9. They’ll stay on the road next week to face USC and UCLA. USC is 7-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play while preseason favorite UCLA leads the Pac-12 at 8-2 and 4-0.