Grabbing four rebounds in the season-opener wasn’t the way Noah Dickerson wanted to start his junior year.
He decided to do something about by having the best game as a Husky. Dickerson scored a career-high 28 points and pulled down another career-best 22 rebounds Sunday in Washington’s 79-69 win over Eastern Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I only had four rebounds last game and that’s not nearly what I wanted to do,” said Dickerson, who led the Huskies with 8.2 rebounds per game last season. “So I just came in, focused on rebounding and just happened to see the ball go in the cup a couple of times.”
UW opened the year with a 86-82 win over Belmont on Friday. Dickerson scored eight points and had four rebounds in 19 minutes.
He made up for that by recording 20 points and 11 rebounds before halftime against Eastern. It was the first time since Quincy Pondexter in 2010 the Huskies had a player score 20 in a half.
Dickerson’s impact was felt throughout the evening, including a 90-second spurt when UW put the game away.
With around four minutes left, the Huskies worked the ball inside to Dickerson. He backed down his man, rolled off with a spin move and scored on an easy bucket.
The Huskies went back on defense and Dickerson battled for a rebound which led to Tacoma native David Crisp drilling a 3-pointer for a 13-point lead.
“Noah said to the guys at halftime that last year, we weren’t able to come out in the second half and maintain our leads or even push our leads farther,” said Huskies junior guard Matisse Thybulle, who scored 15 points. “That was one of our biggest downfalls. Learning to finish games has probably been one of the biggest things we’ve taken from last year and trying to show it this year.”
Finishing strong is why the Huskies are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2015.
EWU (1-1) had a stretch midway through the second half where it stayed within four but UW was able to gradually increase its lead. The Eagles were led by former Beamer High star Bogdan Bliznyuk, who finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Most of the Huskies’ offense came by design but there were times when they got a bit of luck.
Guard Carlos Johnson came off a cut and went up for a dunk only to have the ball bounce off the rim.
UW recovered, swung the ball around and found Thybulle, who drilled a 3-pointer for a 62-51 lead with 7:37 left. The basket gave the Huskies what was then their largest lead of the game.
UW took a 40-34 lead into halftime in a somewhat bizarre manner.
The Huskies shot just 40 percent from the field whereas the Eagles shot 46 percent. Neither team was strong from 3 — UW was 1 of 9 while EWU was 2 of 8.
Dickerson was the key to the Huskies making a late surge. Eight of his 11 first-half rebounds were on the defensive end of the floor. His presence within the 2-3 zone made it challenging for the Eagles to operate within the paint.
“We need to get Noah Dickerson the ball,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. “He’s one of the best low-post players in our league for sure ... and we’re committed to getting him the ball.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark