Following Washington’s win over Cal State Fullerton on New Year’s Day, the Huskies had the vibe of a team that was happy they had won their final non-conference game of the regular season but still not feeling the satisfaction of a victor.
Even though UW was 9-4 entering the Pac-12 opener on Saturday, slow starts had plagued them their first 13 games of the season.
But after beating Washington State 85-67 at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies were feeling a sense of accomplishment thanks to a solid start and blow out finish against WSU.
Washington forward Matisse Thybulle (17 points on 4-of-4 shooting with three 3-pointers) said the work did between the Fullerton and WSU games paid off.
“We came together as a team and as a coaching staff,” Thybulle said. “Talked about what’s holding us back. We altered practice schedules and made an effort to be conscious of our effort in the beginning. Playing hard from the jump, not needing a reason to be playing hard from the jump, just going out there and playing hard.”
For David Crisp, holiday break workouts and a trip home made a big difference. The senior point guard scored a season-high 23 points in the win over the Cougars thanks to what he termed a minor reset.
“I was just locked in, from the first practice we had back,” Crisp said. “When I went home, I talked to my mom a lot and pretty much, she was just saying that you’ve been playing this game your whole life and just go out there and have fun. So I just went out there and told myself I was gonna have fun, go out here play hard for my teammates and get a win. I just felt relaxed.”
Crisp also did a reset on his shot and worked on that during the holiday. Against WSU, he made seven of his 11 attempts and knocked down three 3-pointers.
“Been working on it a lot, I wasn’t getting as much lift on my shot. I worked back at it,” Crisp said. “When I first got here my jumper was pretty high on my shot and just went back to my basics and my fundamentals. (Coach Mike Hopkins) has had us doing a lot of shooting in practice and a lot of form shots. Making sure guys are getting game shots too while we run our offense, just get extra reps.”
Hopkins credited Crisp and Thybulle, two seniors, for their maturity and willingness to work through the team’s issues.
“You know (Crisp is) probably the most criticized player that I’ve ever been around from fans and Twitter and all this stuff,” Hopkins said. “He’s a guy that has bought into everything we’ve tried to do here culturally; a leader in the locker room and he’s been amazing. ...
“It’s one of the most efficient games possible with Matisse and David, that was big time. Dom (Green), did a good job and mainly it’s because how they were defending Noah (Dickerson) and that opened things up for other guys who got their opportunity.”
Hopkins noted the seniors urgency during the holiday practices as they began their final trip through the Pac-12.
“We had conversations with the seniors talking about this being their final go-around and their legacy and having fun,” Hopkins said. “Even as a coach you feel the pressure and the stress and sometimes you don’t perform at your peak. You’ve gotta be confident and you’ve gotta be prepared and then you gotta go out and have fun.
“It’s not about making shots and missing shots, it’s about competing, sharing the ball. That’s what we worked on this week.”
New Year, new Husky
On Friday, Washington announced the addition of five-star point guard and Kentucky transfer Quade Green, who Hopkins called a winner.
“Quade’s an elite point guard and we’ve watched him since he was in high school, we recruited him a bit at (Syracuse). Additionally, point guard, leader and winner,” Hopkins said. “He’s won his whole life, we’re excited to have him here. The biggest thing is he fits what we’re trying to build-leader, winner, worker. He’s trying to be apart of something bigger than himself.”
Green will be eligible to play at the beginning of the 2019-20 winter quarter.