The main issue remains rebounding.
That point was pushed home again on Saturday afternoon during Washington’s 63-62 cringing loss to Texas A&M.
The Huskies were outrebounded every way possible. They gave up rebounds on missed shots in the paint. They did not get long rebounds. Despite having inside position, Washington allowed offensive rebounds and layins off missed free throws. Until that changes, Washington will not get to where it expects to be.
Washington played calm, though sloppy, while dealing with the Aggies’ stiff man-to-man defense. Ball movement and player movement were limited, two things Washington excelled at most of the season.
Texas A&M sunk defenders below the 3-point line, yet was able to recover and challenge 3-point shooters. Washington clanged its way to a 6-for-22 day from behind the 3-point line. In three losses this year, the Huskies are shooting 30 percent from behind the 3-point line.
There is blame to share for Saturday’s problems. Senior Justin Holiday fouled out and played just 15 minutes. After having such a large influence on prior games, Holiday’s brief floor time on Saturday jumbled the Huskies’ rotation.
Isaiah Thomas went just 2-for-7 from the field (though he made all eight of his free throws), stifled by the bodies placed in the lane by Texas A&M.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning came off the bench and produced little. He had as many turnovers (4) as he did rebounds.
Still, Washington had a chance at the end.
With 34.8 seconds remaining, Washington called a full timeout. Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar decided to piggyback his final 30-second timeout on the full timeout. It was a mistake.
Huskies guard C.J. Wilcox came open for a 3-pointer out of the consecutive timeouts. Two intriguing things about this play: Washington was down one and in the double bonus. Any Texas A&M foul would result in two foul shots for Washington, which was 16-for-16 on the day.
Second, Thomas came around the first screen to receive the ball on the right wing. He had an open lane to go right and drive the ball, knowing the play was designed for Wilcox. He chose not to break the play, instead waiting for Wilcox to emerge from the screen. He passed to the open shooter.
Thomas should be credited for not breaking the play. Most leading scorers, even on a bad day, would have stepped to that space. Instead, he waited and Wilcox received a wide-open opportunity that he missed.
Thomas should also be credited for tracking back and stealing the ball during Texas A&M’s final possession. About five seconds remained when Thomas swiped the ball from behind, but Washington had no timeouts because it used two consecutive 30 seconds earlier. Thomas’ final shot attempt, a jumper from just outside of the free throw line, was easily blocked, ending his miserable afternoon.
Both the pessimist and optimist emerge with arguments. The pessimist says Washington has not beaten any of the tough teams it has faced this season. Winning on the road is still a problem. Winning a halfcourt precision game is still a problem.
The optimist says the Huskies played bad but had a shot in all three losses against good teams. Each one-points games with less than a minute to go. Small tweaks and a season of growth will allow Washington to win these games later in the year.
For now, Washington is 6-3 and the Pac-10 will likely not have a ranked team come Monday.