University of Washington

Heading into first Pac-12 road trip, Huskies exhibiting better balance

University of Washington guard Matisse Thybulle (4) drives and passes in the second half. Washington played Washington State in a NCAA basketball game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.
University of Washington guard Matisse Thybulle (4) drives and passes in the second half. Washington played Washington State in a NCAA basketball game at Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

It was the kind of game Washington head coach Mike Hopkins had been waiting for.

The Huskies had three players reach double figures in their 85-67 victory over Washington State on Saturday. Point guard David Crisp had his best game of the year, leading UW with 23 points. Jaylen Nowell added 20, while Matisse Thybulle had 17. Nahziah Carter and Dominic Green added nine and seven points, respectively.

Noah Dickerson, who averages 14.5 points per game, only took four shots and finished with four points. But the Huskies still won going away, and that’s exactly how Hopkins said it should be.

“When you have four or give guys step up, one guy can have a bad game,” Hopkins said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Maybe two guys can have a bad game.”

Throughout the non-conference season, Hopkins stressed the importance of of a balanced offense. He was especially adamant that more players contribute consistently offensively than Nowell and Dickerson, UW’s leading scorers.

It took some time, but as the Huskies head out on their first Pac-12 road trip to face Utah and Colorado, it seems like they’ve finally hit their offensive stride. Thybulle has been a rhythm since scoring 13 against UC Santa Barbara in early December. Green is always a threat to get hot from behind the arc, and Carter has become a reliable source of energy off the bench.

During the early part of UW’s schedule, Hopkins said he often wondered when the Huskies were going to have five players perform well in a single game. He also wondered what the offense would look like when they did.

Now he has the answers.

The Huskies have scored more than 80 points in each of their last two games. In the 84-76 victory over Cal State Fullerton last week, six players reached double figures.

“Certain guys you run plays for, certain guys create offense by themselves, their energy. Certain guys just shoot the ball. … When you feel like you’re just connected and you’re happy with whoever is scoring,” Hopkins said.

“I said this at the beginning of the year. We have six, seven, maybe eight guys that could actually start for our team. Each one can have those games. To see that offense balance is a great thing. When you have a confident team in every position … that’s how teams win.”

Forward Hameir Wright said the coaches have been stressing selflessness on the offense end. That’s led to the Huskies trusting each other more, both offensively and defensively. So when Dickerson didn’t play well against Washington State, UW was still able to score 85 points.

“It’s actually real fun seeing a lot of different guys put the ball in the basket,” Wright said. “I think it also shows that we have a lot more potential than we thought, that we have a lot of room to grow because we have a lot of different guys that can score the basketball from anywhere on the floor.”

That’s going to make it more difficult for teams to key in on any player — namely Dickerson — as the Huskies get deeper into their conference schedule. But when teams do focus on Dickerson, it allows other players to get open. When that happens, Green said UW has to take advantage.

“It helps everybody,” Green said. “It frees up shooters. Last game, we shot pretty well from 3. That’s one thing that it’s a disadvantage but it’s an advantage at the same time.”

Carter, who has scored 10 and nine points in UW’s last two games, is one of the players Hopkins pointed to as providing a boost to the Huskies’ offense. Not only is he scoring and playing more aggressive, but he’s also made an impact on the boards. He’s grabbed 12 total rebounds over the past two games.

“I’ve kind of gotten into a zone,” Carter said. “I’ve bought into what coaches are telling me to do. That and my own ability, of course, to just go out and make plays.”

Hopkins also said Jamal Bay his starting to make an impact, meaning his role will increase as the season moves forward. That’s good news for a UW team lacking depth.

And when the Huskies have more players contributing, Carter said, it not only helps the offense, it makes the games more fun.

“I just feel like we’re so excited for each other as far as when we see a basketball go in for another person or a steal,” he said. “It’s so much teamwork out there I feel like.”

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Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.


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