SEATTLE — The first game against Oregon State was the second of the Huskies’ head-scratchers.
Washington had lost at home to Utah the previous game, leaving most observers stunned. So, it was off to Oregon State on Jan. 23 for a quick fix. After all, the Beavers were winless in Pacific-12 Conference play at the time and the Huskies were still a healthy 4-1 in conference.
Instead, Washington never led. It trailed by as many as 20 points in the first half. Despite trailing by a point in the second half, the Huskies never were able to get over the hump.
If only the challenge ahead of the Huskies were merely hump-sized.
The Huskies, losers of seven of eight and producers of few positive signs, host Oregon State (13-12, 3-9) today in a season that has flopped.
There is no common theme in the spiral. Washington’s offense has been poor at times. Too many turnovers one game, not enough defense another. Little help for the team’s leading scorer, C.J. Wilcox, who is in a slump. The options for blame are omnipresent.
Wilcox’s struggles are one place to look. He is shooting 40.8 percent from the field during conference play. Perhaps more odd is his 70.5 percent shooting from the free-throw line after shooting 83.9 percent overall last season. The fourth-year junior has been suppressed by the weight that comes with being other teams’ No. 1 defensive priority.
“I didn’t think it was going to be like this,” Wilcox said of the attention he’s receiving. “I knew I was going to be one of the main guys on the scout board, but I didn’t think I was going to be the main guy that they would just change their whole defense to keep me from scoring.”
It’s as if the opposition pulled up in a clown car and dispatched every imaginable counter to stop Wilcox.
He’s seen the small, like 6-foot USC point guard Jio Fontan, face guard him. Fontan ignored every other Husky on the floor.
He’s seen the big, which he will again today, in 6-10 Oregon State forward Eric Moreland. Moreland has a mean streak and Go-Go gadget arms.
“It’s definitely a different a look because he’s so long,” Wilcox said. “Trying to shoot over him was a bit of an adjustment.”
Arizona put athletic Nick Johnson on him. Oregon went with senior E.J. Singler and high-flying Carlos Emory. All of them wanted to force Wilcox off the 3-point line and have him curl to the basket. They grab him around the hips and deter his routes with collisions.
Not helping Wilcox is his recent reduction of practice repetitions. He was in a precautionary walking boot again Friday to keep a small pain on the outside of his left foot from turning into a bigger issue. Last season, he had a hip problem that caused him to miss practice time and coincided with a shooting slump.
Wilcox missed three games in late January last season. On Jan. 26, 2012, he went 0-for-3 in 10 minutes against Arizona State as Washington tried to ease him back in. That was the start of a six-game struggle during which Wilcox shot 35.4 percent.
His slide this season began Jan. 26, too. That’s right around the time Wilcox said he first began feeling discomfort in his left foot and Washington reduced his practice time. In the past six games, Wilcox is shooting 32.5 percent from the field.
“It’s a little bit of a learning curve,” Wilcox said. “At this point, doing the best I can.”
OREGON STATE (13-12 OVERALL, 3-9 PACIFIC-12 CONFERENCE) AT WASHINGTON (13-12, 5-7)
8 p.m., Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: Root Sports. Radio: 950-AM, 102.9-FM
All-time series: Washington leads, 154-138
Player Pos PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
Roberto NelsonG 188.8.131.526.977.4
Challe Barton G2.41.01.647.163.6
Eric MorelandF 9.410.71.859.058.7
Player Pos PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
C.J. WilcoxG 184.108.40.206.977.0
Scott Suggs F220.127.116.119.688.0
Shawn Kemp Jr.F 18.104.22.168 47.662.5
Scouting report: Washington showed up in Corvallis, Ore., on Jan. 23 appearing as if it had just drank cement for its last meal. The first 15 minutes against Oregon State were arguably the worst of the season for the Huskies. The Beavers bludgeoned Washington, 74-66, though Roberto Nelson was 3-for-14 that night. Nelson has been hot lately and leads the conference in scoring during league play (18.5 ppg.). Joe Burton is a curiosity at center for Oregon State. He’s sixth in assists (3.9) during Pac-12 play.
Next: 8 p.m. Wednesday, UW at Arizona (ESPN2, 950-AM).Todd Dybas email@example.com @Todd_Dybas blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports firstname.lastname@example.org