Washington head coach Mike Hopkins called a timeout just 30 seconds in to the second half of Saturday’s game against Arizona State.
His frustration at the opening sequence was palpable. After going into the break trailing by eight points, the Huskies opened the second half by turning the ball over and then allowing a second-chance layup at the other end.
The sequence summed up much of UW’s night during the 75-63 loss to Arizona State. The defeat was the Huskies’ first in the Pac-12 and snapped a 12-game winning streak. Their last loss came against Virginia Tech on Dec. 15.
Hopkins was animated during the timeout, pounding his arm across his chest as he yelled at the personnel standing in a circle around him. When it was over, the players took a second to collect themselves on the court.
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It wasn’t the first time during conference play that UW needed to regroup, needed someone —often a senior, sometimes Hopkins — to say the right thing at the right moment.
It’s just the first time the Huskies didn’t pull out a win afterward.
“We just knew that in this game, it’s a toughness game,” Hopkins said. “They were starting to out-tough us and if we weren’t going to match that, the game might as well have been over.
“They stripped the ball from us and then they crashed the offensive glass. Those are two plays that just can’t happen. And so, I was just trying to send a message and make sure it didn’t get out of hand too quick.”
The response from the Huskies wasn’t immediate. Arizona State’s lead reached a game-high 18 points before UW started to chip away. The Huskies led only briefly, for a span of just more than 2 minutes early in the first half.
The Huskies’ made their run late in the second half. David Crisp started the 10-0 stretch with a 3-pointer. Then, after Noah Dickerson hit a jumper, Jaylen Nowell drained a 3-pointer to pull the Huskies within single digits, 54-45, with 7:29 left.
“We played. We cut it. We fought,” Hopkins said. “It’s just about fight. I just asked, ‘Who wants to be here? Who wants to play and who doesn’t? Tell me now and I’ll make some subs.’”
When Dickerson added two free throws, the Huskies were suddenly within seven points, 54-47, with 6:29 left.
“Good basketball,” Dickerson said of the difference during UW’s run. “Really all it was was defense, getting stops. Really all that matters is getting stops. When you get stops, we get to run. Usually when we get stops, we can get a good shot at the other end.”
The run temporarily quieted the crowd inside Wells Fargo Arena, but the Huskies wouldn’t get any closer than seven points. Zylan Cheatham quickly re-ignited Sun Devils’ fans with a dunk, one of several for Arizona State.
Arizona State finished with 42 points in the paint. It’s been rare for opponents to have that much success against UW inside, Hopkins said, and it was vital to the Sun Devils’ victory.
“We just didn’t execute our defense,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been better about keeping the ball out of the high-post on the bounce and on the pass. They did a really good job of getting it to Cheatham, making that dump-down pass and they finished.”
Dickerson made the biggest impact for the Huskies, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds even though he played most of the second half with four fouls. In his second game back since spraining his ankle against UCLA, Dickerson said he felt about “80-85 percent.”
“During the game, adrenaline is going,” he said. “I really don’t feel it. I’ll feel it in like an hour, two hours.”
Hopkins said getting the ball to Dickerson was key to keeping the game close in the first half. The Huskies went into the break down just eight points despite shooting 37.9 percent, including 3-of-16 from the 3-point line.
“I just felt like the way we were playing, the shots weren’t really falling for us as much as it usually does,” said Dickerson. “We just needed somebody to start getting double-teamed and things like that. I just did what I did, caught the ball in the post. I couldn’t feel my ankle hurt during the game. I was just making moves.”
With 14:29 left in the first half, the score was tied 11-11. That’s when Arizona State went on a 15-4 run. In the midst of it, UW didn’t score a field goal for nearly 7 minutes. When Remy Martin hit a jumper with 6:07 left before halftime, he gave Arizona State 26-15 lead. That stretch gave the Sun Devils all the separation it needed.
Crisp finished with 17 points for UW, while Nowell added 15. Four players reached double figures for Arizona State, led by Romello White’s 17.
After the win against Arizona on Thursday, the Huskies revealed that several players, including Matisse Thybulle and Dominic Green, were dealing with flu-like symptoms. Forward Hameir Wright missed his second straight game on Saturday due to illness.
But that, Hopkins said, is no excuse.
“We had enough tonight,” he said. “We just couldn’t find it. Our energy levels were down.”