SEATTLE – An uncommon scene was presented Saturday night when Abdul Gaddy stole the ball, sprinted up the right side and fired down a tomahawk jam to tie the score 55-55.
Gaddy, as undemonstrative as Isaiah Thomas was demonstrative, followed his highlight jam with a feral scream.
Trouble was, the moment’s emotion came after Washington was forced to rally from yet another distant margin, this one an 18-point deficit. It also wasn’t enough for Washington to stop from dropping to 4-4 when Nevada’s Deonte Burton hit two late, challenged, comeback-stuffing 3-pointers to help the Wolf Pack beat the Huskies, 76-73, in Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
The Huskies have already lost three games at home this season, a scourge unlike in the past when finding a tonic for road woes was the main topic of conversation.
Despite the advantage of the home floor and the return of Scott Suggs (plantar fasciitis) and Shawn Kemp Jr. (torn patella tendon), Washington had an abysmal first half. The Huskies shot 32.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes, a number that would have been worse save for 5-for-7 accuracy to close the half.
The Huskies continue manic fluctuations within games. Saturday, they scored 26 points in the first half and 47 in the second. The prior game, a narrow win over Cal-State Fullerton, Washington scored 29 points in the first half, and 45 in the second. Against Seton Hall, Washington scored 49 in the first half then a season-low 22 in the second.
Washington, with a .500 record, expects blowback.
“We, right now, know what to do on both ends of the floor,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “The main thing we have to do is keep our guys believing and keep everyone’s head up. And not believe the peripheral talk on the side. Can’t believe that.
“Our focus as coaches is to make sure our team doesn’t listen to the negativity that’s around and amongst our group; we believe in ourselves. I think that might be the No. 1 thing we have to do.”
Nevada’s Burton waltzed out of Hec Ed with no such internal quarrel. He scored 29 points Saturday night after scoring a career-high 31 points last season in Nevada’s 76-73 overtime win over Washington in Reno.
“I love going against them,” Burton said.
Burton had three game-winning shots this season for Nevada (5-4) coming into Saturday. He made the game-changing shots against Washington.
His stepback 3-pointer at the top of the key with just a sliver of air between himself and C.J. Wilcox put Nevada up 70-66 with 2:49 to play.
Suggs, who had a career-high 19 points despite 3-for-10 shooting in the first half, sank two free throws to yank Washington back to 70-68. But, Burton struck again, this time from the corner in front of the Nevada bench for a 73-68 lead with 1:58 remaining. Wilcox (21 points) said he even tipped the shot and thought it was going to be an air ball.
“Once he got going, he could make shots like that,” Wilcox said.
Washington was down 73-70 with 1:31 to go following a Wilcox dunk. But, Gaddy missed two shots in the last 90 seconds, and Nevada put the game away with three free throws.
Gaddy picked up his second foul with 17:01 remaining in the first half. Washington gambled and left him in, until he picked up his third foul with 10:57 to go, forcing him to watch the rest of the half. When Gaddy committed his third foul, Suggs was waiting at the scorer’s table to replace him.
The problems stemming from foul trouble for Gaddy were amplified by Andrew Andrews being flanked by crutches on the bench. He stepped on a teammate’s foot in practice Thursday and has a severely sprained ankle. X-rays were negative for fractures, but the time line for his return is unclear, according to Romar.
All of which leaves Washington to wall off the noise.
“The negativity … it won’t necessarily come from within,” Romar said. “If you keep hearing that stuff long enough and you’re not strong-minded, you can start believing it.
“We have to guard against that.”
At least better than they did against Nevada.Todd Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas