Jaylen Nowell’s game-clinching jumper with less than 10 seconds left gave Mike Hopkins a victory in his debut as the Washington Huskies’ men’s basketball coach.
UW’s 91-87 win over St. Martin’s on Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena featured more than Nowell showing he’s comfortable of handing a big moment.
Here are a few things to take away from UW’s latest performance.
Many things stood out for UW’s administration when they hired Hopkins. Namely his defensive philosophies. The longtime Syracuse assistant is one of the foremost experts in college basketball at the zone defense.
Hopkins and his staff know it will take time for the Huskies to learn the nuances. St. Martin’s shot 45.9 percent from the field and a blistering 52.9 percent from 3.
Saints guards E.J. Boyce and Luke Chavez raised some concerns about the zone by combing to score 54 points with most of their damage coming from beyond the arc.
Hopkins said after the game the goal of defense is to make life uncomfortable for shooters.
“There’s such a fine line margin for winning and losing,” Hopkins said. “What you’re trying to do is correct mistakes, as many mistakes as possible to have the best probability to win.
“Those guys on the defensive end, it goes back to the 3-point shot. It’s just urgency, it’s moving up. It’s not playing hard, but executing and using your length.”
Guard and Tacoma native David Crisp along with forward Noah Dickerson both mentioned urgency throughout their remarks.
Crisp said St. Martin’s early offensive show was like a “punch” to the face. He added the goal going forward is get on the attack to land the first punch by getting stops and scoring baskets.
“We can’t come out and have nobody bring the fight to us, we have to bring it to them,” Crisp said. “And it’s gotta be like that for the whole 40 minutes. No excuses.”
Nowell’s shot is going to be the lasting memory from this game. To some degree, there’s a good reason.
He’s a true freshman on a team which isn’t going to shy away from having an immediate contributor. Nowell finished with 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting while going 2 for 3 from 3 over 24 minutes.
“I told them a flat screen for Jaylen,” Hopkins said of Nowell’s late-game jumper. “Go until there’s about eight seconds on the clock. He went when there was about six.
“I started getting a little panicky like, ‘Go! Go!’ ”
Nowell was one of five Huskies to finish in double figures.
Forward Noah Dickerson led the team with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Crisp scored 18.
UW shot 45 percent from the field and converted 43.8 percent of their 3’s. The Huskies were a little hesitant in the first half but became more aggressive by attacking the paint in the second half.
It’s why they shot 58.3 percent after intermission.
Crisp summed it up by saying it was “an ugly win.”
Hopkins said the Huskies weren’t trying to do a lot on offense so they could keep future opponents guessing.
Defense is a bit different. UW was essentially threatened by two players in Boyce and Chavez who either found gaps in the scheme or took advantage of slow rotations.
UW did switch to a press and later ran man-to-man in the second half.
But what about Boyce and Chavez? It was clear they were the biggest threats. They were the two to stop. Why did UW have trouble slowing them down?
“Once they make their first couple, they start to get confident,” Dickerson said. “Sometimes, we were there and ‘bam.’ The fact we let them make their first couple ... they saw the ball go in and kept seeing it go in and got hot.
“They took heat check shots and they were hot and started to fall. We have to work on making sure at the beginning of the game, we’re shutting people down so they just can’t see the ball go in.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark