Arizona State’s plan in the second half was to attack the post. The No. 25 Sun Devils went back one final time and found something they weren’t expecting.
It was Sam Timmins.
Washington’s sophomore center, with less than 15 seconds left, produced a game-saving block in a 68-64 win over ASU on Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We have trust in each other to do our jobs,” Huskies junior forward Noah Dickerson said. “When you come into a situation like that, we train for that all offseason, all preseason. That’s what we train to do. We train to close out games. That’s what we did.”
The win sets up another chapter in what’s been the most pivotal week in Mike Hopkins’ first season. Consecutive wins over rival Washington State and now ASU, creates a Saturday showdown against No. 9 Arizona.
On top of facing another ranked team, it’s also the return of former Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar. A UW alum, Romar was fired after 15 seasons and was immediately hired as an Arizona assistant.
UW (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12 Conference) has faced ranked teams twice this season. But there wasn’t this much on the line in those previous encounters.
The Huskies are a consensus bubble team and a win against a ranked team this late in the season could be key to reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
“We’ve been on some pretty big stages already this year,” Huskies point guard David Crisp. “We played at one of the nicest places to play basketball in Madison Square Garden. We’ve played at Kansas. We’ve played in a lot of big games. ... Now, it’s just composure and it’s poise.”
Crisp, with 2:29 left, cut through the defense and scored a layup for a 62-58 lead.
ASU (16-6, 4-6) cut the lead to 62-60 but Crisp, who finished with 12 points, scored again for a 64-60 edge with less than a minute left.
Dickerson, who scored a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds on his 21st birthday, had a jumper that was sandwiched between two ASU buckets. UW still led 66-64 and ASU had a chance to at least tie.
Or it did until Timmins’ clinching block that was followed by Dominic Green draining two late free throws. Timmins’ block, aside from capturing a win, resulted in the Sun Devils scoring a season-low in points despite shooting 44.4 percent from the field.
ASU, after going through a few early scoreless stretches, torched UW to start the second half. The Sun Devils went on a 9-2 run with eight of those points coming inside.
UW, after going through a two-plus minute drought, watched ASU tie it at 39-39 until baskets from Crisp and Matisse Thybulle gave the Huskies a 44-39 lead with 15:02 left.
Thybulle, at around the 14-minute mark, pilfered his 69th steal of the year to take the school single-season record. He grabbed one more about 90 seconds later.
He also picked up two fouls in that process and had four total with around 14 minutes left.
Thybulle came back at 9:15 and immediately grabbed his sixth steal which led to Crisp scoring for a 50-46 lead. He ended the evening with 9 points. Hopkins said after the game Thybulle was playing with a stomach bug.
Under Hopkins, the Huskies have basically been an even-tempered team.
Just not against the Sun Devils.
Dickerson continually probed the interior and worked the Sun Devils in the paint. In his last game, he had 13 points and six rebounds.
He had 13 points and 11 rebounds in only 15 minutes of work in the first half. The Huskies, midway through the opening period, ran the offense through Dickerson.
The junior forward scored seven straight points and to give UW a 26-18 lead with 7:27 remaining in the half.
Having Dickerson impose his will was just one example of UW’s steel.
Freshman forward Hameir Wright collided with ASU’s Mickey Mitchell. Replay showed Wright grabbed Mitchell’s leg and that caused him to fall down.
Mitchell got up and when he tried to get in Wright’s face, both teams met and freshman guard Michael Carter III pushed Mitchell to the floor.
It resulted in both players receiving technicals.
Carter made up for it near the end of the half. He was driving inside and with two Sun Devils protecting the rim, he fed Thybulle for a corner 3 to give the Huskies a 34-22 lead with 2:35 left.
Washington’s resume now consists of four potential NCAA Tournament teams in ASU, Belmont, Kansas and USC. Two of those wins — the Jayhawks and Sun Devils — were against ranked opponents. Plus, the wins over KU and USC came on the road.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Huskies have a consensus Ratings Percentage Index or RPI around 50. The RPI is a metric the NCAA Tournament committee uses to assess teams that are under consideration.
“It’s hard when you’ve playing the caliber of teams we’ve been playing. Championship-caliber programs,” Hopkins said. “Such a fine line. There’s not a large margin for error.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark