CORVALLIS — After four surprising victories — three on the road — the Washington Huskies have left their coach dumbfounded with two equally shocking defeats.
You try figuring out this team because Lorenzo Romar is at a loss to explain how they could look so good at the start of the Pac-12 schedule, then fall flat in their past two outings — the latest example a 74-66 defeat at Oregon State.
“We’ve done the right thing,” Romar said. “For several weeks, we did the right thing, and out of nowhere, we’ve lost that concentration.
“We lost that edge. We got to regain that.”
Motivation wasn’t in short supply Wednesday night.
Washington players vowed payback against Oregon State, which was a No. 9 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals last season, but toppled the top-seeded Huskies in the biggest upset in the history of the event.
Admittedly, the Huskies didn’t take Oregon State seriously in that last encounter — a fatal characteristic in several UW upsets this season — and they vowed not to repeat the mistakes against the Beavers, which entered this game 0-5 in the conference.
Despite the promises, the Huskies fell behind by 10 points in the first four minutes and were down 20 with four minutes left before halftime. They did claw back in the second half, closing to a point of the Beavers.
“We came out very lethargic tonight. Felt like we were running in quicksand, mud. We weren’t moving our feet. We weren’t moving our feet offensively. The same goes on the other end.” Romar said.
“We did a great job of coming back and getting back into the game.”
However, the Beavers (11-8, 1-5) had an answer for every rally, and never surrendered the lead in their first conference victory.
Devon Collier led the Beavers with 16 points, seven rebound and five assists. Four OSU starters finished with double-digit scoring, including Roberto Nelson (15 points), Joe Burton (13) and Ahmad Starks (10). Beavers reserve forward Eric Moreland had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Washington received a game-high 23 points from C.J. Wilcox, who also had seven rebounds. Abdul Gaddy added 14 points, Scott Suggs had 11 and Aziz N’Diaye finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, his seventh double-double this season.
However, the Huskies failed to break the 70-point barrier for the eighth consecutive game and couldn’t keep pace with Oregon State, especially early on.
Washington trailed 12-2 last Saturday against Utah in a nine-point defeat against what was another winless Pac-12 team.
Against Oregon State, the Huskies fell into a 13-3 deficit and the Beavers stretched their lead to 20, 34-14 with 4:33 left in the first half.
Washington finished the first half with a flurry, scoring on five of its last six possessions.
Gaddy drained a long three-pointer as time expired to cut OSU’s lead to 39-29 at intermission.
“I’m thinking we’re right where we want to be,” Wilcox said. “We wanted to get under 10, but we got right at 10 so that was good. We knew that’s where we wanted to be.
“We were confident coming out in the second half.”
The Huskies carried the momentum into the final 20 minutes.
Washington closed to a point at 53-52, but Suggs and Wilcox missed open shots that would have given the Huskies their first lead. Gaddy had a short jumper rattle out, which would have tied the score with 9:09 left.
Minutes later, Nelson drained a three-pointer that gave OSU a 61-55 lead and Washington never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
“Once we cut it to one we weren’t able to get stops or force turnovers to get over the hump,” Romar said.
After starting 4-0 in the Pac-12, Washington (12-7, 4-2) has lost two consecutive before starting its toughest part of the schedule.
“We’re 4-2 and getting ready to play the team that’s playing the best in the league right now,” Romar said. “We’re getting ready to find out where we’re at.”