At 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, Oakland point guard Kahlil “Kay” Felder does not amaze with his athleticism. He does not stand out in a layup line. He does not leap above defenders for ferocious dunks.
But he is skilled, he is cunning, and he is not hesitant to pull up off the dribble and fire a jump shot, and so the young man gets buckets. And when he’s not getting buckets, he helps his teammates get buckets — so many that Felder leads the country in assists per game.
So the savvy junior strolled into Hec Edmundson Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, eyeballed the favored Washington Huskies and did what he always does, except better than he’s ever done it.
Oakland thumped Washington convincingly enough in this 97-83 victory that it hardly felt like an upset, though the Huskies were favored by 11.5 points and the Golden Grizzlies had not defeated a team from a Power Five conference since the 2010-11 season.
And Felder, after one of the most impressive individual performances by an opponent in Hec Ed history, was all anybody could talk about. He scored 38 points — his previous career-best was 37, and his season average was 24.6 — and handed out nine assists with six rebounds in 35 minutes. His dribble penetration created easy baskets, and the Golden Grizzlies were able to rebound 17 of their own misses due in part to the havoc Felder wrought upon UW’s defensive rotation.
In the end, he helped continue one of UW’s least-celebrated traditions: After defeats in years past to Stony Brook, UC-Irvine, Albany and South Dakota State, the Huskies (7-3) have now lost at home to a team from a mid-major conference in five consecutive seasons.
“Oakland is a very impressive team,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “The last guy that played in this building that looked like (Felder) plays for the Celtics now.”
That was a reference to former UW star Isaiah Thomas, himself a 5-foot-9 left-hander who made a habit of scoring against bigger, taller players. But even Thomas never scored 38 points in a game.
Felder did it on 14-of-27 shooting from the field and 8-of-11 from the free-throw line. He made 10-of-17 and scored 25 points before halftime, including Oakland’s final 14 points of the first half — at which point the Golden Grizzlies led the stunned Huskies 55-35.
“The basket feels like an ocean or something,” said Felder, a Detroit native. “It’s so big and wide, and everything you’re throwing up is going in.”
Andrew Andrews, UW’s senior guard and team captain, had little success trying to slow Felder. Felder hit step-back jumpers against him. Felder drove and dished.
So Romar switched freshman guard Dejounte Murray onto Felder in the second half, and he fared a little better, though Felder still helped create so much offense that the Huskies had little chance to chip away at the deficit.
It didn’t help that both of UW’s starting forwards, Marquese Chriss and Noah Dickerson, picked up two early fouls and had to sit for significant portions of the first half.
Romar said “maybe we could have done some different things” to defend Felder, but that “he’s clever enough to where he sees the double team coming and just kind of goes at you and makes you pay for it.”
“In the first half, he was just making tough shots,” Andrews said. “He was just good. He made a lot of contested shots. I don’t think it was anything we were doing.”
The Huskies did cut their deficit to 10 early in the second half thanks to an 11-2 run capped by Dickerson’s breakaway dunk. But just as the crowd began to roar again, Oakland guard Montez Walker, a Texas transfer playing in his first game of the season, scored eight of his 18 total points in three possessions — including two 3-pointers — to push his team’s lead back to 18 points.
That was the end of the Huskies’ comeback, short-lived as it was. Felder scored eight of the Golden Grizzlies’ next 10 points, and UW couldn’t come closer than a 12-point deficit the rest of the way.
Murray and Matisse Thybulle led the Huskies with 16 points each, Andrews added 15 and Chriss, limited by foul trouble to 24 minutes, scored 12.
Oakland shot 48.1 percent from the field as a team, but put up a 53.7 percent clip in the first half while holding the Huskies to 13 for 36 (36.1 percent) and 3 for 13 from 3-point range (they finished 13 for 37).
Open looks didn’t fall for UW, which seemed more and more tempted by the 3-point arc with each basket that Felder and his teammates added to Oakland’s total.
And the Golden Grizzlies enjoyed a 55-39 rebounding advantage — including 17 offensive boards and 24 second-chance points — for which Romar gave Felder partial credit.
“There were a number of times, because of his penetration, the ball comes off and we weren’t able to box out, because we were rotating, and they score off of that,” Romar said. “I’d like to go back and look — I would guess he was responsible for two-thirds of their points, in one way or another. So I don’t think we just played horrible defense on their team. I just thought we saw a sensational performance.”
Said Murray: “They just came and they never stopped. We went on a run and cut it down, and they went back on a run. It’s just a learning experience, and we’ve just got to get back to practicing and get ready for the next team.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME: The Huskies could not stop Oakland point guard Kahlil “Kay” Felder. The 5-foot-9 junior led all scorers with 38 points — a career high — and his successful dribble penetration also resulted in nine assists and made it nearly impossible for UW to put together any kind of meaningful run. Felder also played 35 minutes despite leaving the game briefly due to an apparent rolled ankle.
IT WAS OVER WHEN: UW put together an early second-half run to trim Oakland’s lead to 65-55, but Golden Grizzlies guard Montez Walker responded by scoring eight points in three possessions to push Oakland’s lead to 18, and the Huskies never really threatened after that.
QUOTABLE: “I know we have some good guards in our league, but I just don’t know if we’ll play against anybody else like that.” — Lorenzo Romar on Felder
STAT OF THE GAME: Despite the outcome, the Huskies finished with a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio — 23 assists, 12 turnovers.
WHAT IT MEANS: Yet another home loss to a mid-major opponent for the Huskies, who have now experienced such defeats in five consecutive seasons. Oakland, though, might be a little different. The Golden Grizzlies score 86 points per game and Felder looks like one of the best all-around point guards in the nation. Still, a 14-point home loss to a Horizon League team is somewhat alarming, especially considering how easy it was for Oakland to score.
UP NEXT: Seattle University at Washington, 8 p.m. Tuesday (Pac-12 Networks)