As Nevada guard Marcus Marshall pushed an off-balance, one-handed shot into the basket, with Washington guard Matisse Thybulle draped over him and the final seconds ticking off the clock in a tie game Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, two thoughts prevailed.
The first: That was a tough shot. A really tough shot.
Also: If the Huskies had kept Nevada off the offensive glass, or played a little better defense earlier in the game, it wouldn’t have come to this.
But it did, and so Nevada left Seattle with an 87-85 victory before a crowd of 8,171, propelled by Marshall’s game winner, by his game-high 32 points, and by a slew of offensive rebounds and second-chance points that allowed the Wolf Pack to close the first half on a 15-4 run and force the Huskies to play from behind thereafter.
“We tell our team, if you don’t take care of business early, then you put yourself in a position for the official to make a call, or someone to throw up a shot at the buzzer that you didn’t think they could make,” Romar said of Marshall’s tie-breaking bucket with two-tenths of a second remaining. “We put ourselves in that position. In the first half with the 15 second-chance points that they had, that just really hurt us.”
It all hurts right now, doesn’t it? The Huskies (4-5) have lost four consecutive nonconference games for the first time in Romar’s UW career, and have lost twice on their home floor to mid-major opponents this season. They could have used a victory to salve the wounds opened last week in a 98-71 beating at Gonzaga.
Nevada (8-2) certainly appears to be a talented outfit. The Wolf Pack were picked by media representatives to finish second in the Mountain West this season, and they are led by ex-Golden State Warriors coach Eric Musselman. But they are down a player — ex-Rainier Beach forward Elijah Foster is serving an indefinite suspension following a domestic battery arrest — and they beat UW by using only seven guys.
At times, Marshall tried to do it by himself, driving for tough buckets and making 3 of 12 from 3-point range. Nevada scored 11 points in the final 5:06. Marshall had nine of them.
“The guy sitting at the top of the building today knew that we were going to (Marshall) down the stretch, because we went to him for 4 ½ minutes and we rode him,” Musselman said. “And special players make special shots.”
The Wolf Pack benefited from D.J. Fenner’s 20 points, 16 of which came in the second half. But aside from Marshall, the Huskies will most remember 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Caroline, who bruised his way to 12 points and nine rebounds, six of them offensive.
UW led, 37-31, with 4:30 left in the first half. But Nevada led 46-41 at halftime despite shooting only 41.7 percent from the field in that time. Second-chance points killed the Huskies, who committed 15 fouls in the first half.
The halftime message, as relayed by UW guard David Crisp: “We were just getting punked. We were getting outrebounded. You’re not going to win no games if you don’t rebound, if you’ve got teams offensive rebounding on you every possession.
“A lot of those, the kid Caroline, we couldn’t even find him. Nobody made contact with him before he got an offensive rebound. So once we made that a point of emphasis, everybody looked to box out and we were more hungry in the second half.”
The Huskies trailed, 65-54, with fewer than 12 minutes to play. But Crisp forced them back into the game by scoring 21 points in the second half, making four 3-pointers in a span of a little more than three minutes to pull UW within a point. Carlos Johnson, a freshman guard, was again a bright spot with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes.
The Huskies tied it twice — first on Crisp’s driving layup with 2:04 to play, then when star freshman Markelle Fultz, who finished with 21 points and eight assists, made a clutch pair of free throws to make it 85-85 with 12 seconds remaining.
Nevada inbounded and kicked the ball back to Marshall, who dribbled into the frontcourt with Thybulle on him. Thybulle slipped past a screen from Nevada forward Cameron Oliver, guarding Marshall step-for-step as he drove to the hoop.
Over Thybulle’s outstretched hand, Marshall flicked a right-handed floater that found the net. Players and coaches on Nevada’s bench celebrated wildly as Marshall hit the deck.
“I think we did a great job; he just made a great shot,” Fultz said. “He’s a good player. We played good ‘D.’ He just made a tough shot.”
After another demoralizing defeat, Romar acknowledged that his players lack effort at times, but said he will “continue to point out why we think we can turn it around, that all is not lost.”
“We’re finding our way. I believe we can find our way,” Romar said. “We can’t get down on ourselves and lose belief. We can’t do that.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME — Only one candidate here: Nevada guard Marcus Marshall, who led all scorers with 32 points and made a leaning, one-handed shot as he fell to the court with two-tenths of a second remaining to lift the Wolf Pack to victory.
PLAY OF THE GAME – Marshall’s winning shot. He was defended well by UW guard Matisse Thybulle, who got around a screen and stuck with Marshall as he drove to the hoop. But the right-handed runner found the net and sent UW to its fourth consecutive loss.
STAT OF THE GAME — Easy: Nevada’s 14 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points in the first half. UW did a better job on the glass in the second half, and the Wolf Pack finished with 17 offensive boards and 19 second-chance points. But the damage done in the first half forced the Huskies to play from behind for the rest of the game.
QUOTABLE — “This is not game 28. This is game nine. At some point, if it doesn’t happen, you can’t continue to say, ‘It’s a long season, a lot of season ahead.’ But there still is. We’ve just got to keep getting better, keep getting better.” — UW coach Lorenzo Romar.
WHAT IT MEANS — The Huskies have lost four consecutive nonconference games for the first time in Romar’s 15-season tenure, and their NCAA Tournament hopes may already be extinguished, considering the improbability of turning this thing around against Pac-12 competition.
UP NEXT — Washington vs. Western Michigan, 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18 (Pac-12 Network)