UW Loses to Trojans, Gain Road Split

Despite a couple of game comebacks by the Washington Huskies, the USC Trojans took an 11-point lead into half and kept the Huskies at bay long enough to pull away at the end and win 98-88 Saturday afternoon at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.

USC made 17-20 free throws in the second half after Washington fouled them in the bonus. They were 32-37 overall. Heading into the game, the Trojans were dead last in the Pac-12 in free throw percentage (.668). 

The Huskies (14-7, 6-3), despite a Thursday night win at UCLA, fell into at worst a tie for second place in the Pac-12, as USC won their 14th in a row at the Galen Center.(17-5, 6-3). 

“It hurts," Marquese Chriss said of the loss. "At the same time it’s a bittersweet moment because we’re still working hard and we’ll learn for it. We’ve got to learn to put a full 40 minutes together and see games out.”

“We’ll step back from this and we’ll say we went to LA and got a split," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said post-game. "This is the third road trip where we haven’t gotten swept, and that’s usually a formula to get into the post-season as long as you hold serve at home.”

Washington was led by the 18 points of Chriss and Dejounte Murray, while Andrew Andrews scored 15.  Chriss's 18 is the most he's scored in Pac-12 play so far in his young career. 

Nikola Jovanovic led five USC players in double-figures with 28. Jordan McLaughlin scored 21, Bennie Boatwright 15, Kaitlin Reinhardt 11 and Elijah Stewart 10. 

“They were making shots," said Chriss. "They were driving and kicking it to shooters. They took advantage of the opportunities that they had.”

In a quick turnaround from Thursday night's 86-84 win over the Bruins, Washington game out sluggish. Their pressure switching defense, usually good for an average of at least eight steals a game, only had one the first 20 minutes as USC built up an 11-point halftime advantage. 

“I’m not going to say we were tired, but we didn’t come out with the energy that we needed to," said Chriss. We weren’t as locked in as we should have been.”

Also hurting the Huskies was the foot injury to freshman forward Noah Dickerson. After starting, Dickerson only played 71 seconds before getting subbed out for Malik Dime. He was able to come back and play 16 minutes overall, but one less impact front court defender made things tough for UW inside against Jovanovic, who had his way all day long. 

“Very explosive basketball team," Romar said of the Trojans. "Every time we made a mistake they made us pay dearly. Too many blown coverages. A lot of breakdowns. Sometimes you can get away with that with a team that’s not as aggressive as USC, but they’ll do that all game.”

But the Huskies don't know how to quit, and they came charging back from the second half tip. An extended 21-13 run gave UW hope down 57-54 with 13:36 to play, but the Trojans answered with five quick points of their own. 

USC pushed their lead up to 13 a couple times, but once again - the Huskies bit back.  A 10-2 run, capped off by two Murray free throws with 6:03 remaining gave UW some hope down five, but the Trojans again exploited a porous Dawg defense, keeping Washington at bay until the Huskies had no choice but to hoist up three-pointers in a desperate attempt to generate some quick points. They missed their last six attempts from deep in the game, shooting only 25 percent overall (8-32) from three.

“It’s unfortunate," said Romar. "We didn’t make good defensive decisions down the stretch. You give USC any type of an edge, they are going to take a mile. And that’s what they did.”

"I think they had a chip on their shoulder," added Chriss, referencing Washington's win over USC earlier in Seattle after the Trojans were up by as many as 22 points. "They are a good basketball team. I think they create a lot of matchup problems for other teams.”

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