Noah Dickerson doesn’t need to score to show his value.
Washington’s senior forward has been vital to the Huskies’ success this season, regardless of whether he finishes with a double-digit point total.
Because he demands so much attention inside, Dickerson opens up UW’s offense on the perimeter. He’s often proven to be a willing and capable passer, which leads to open looks for the Huskies’ guards.
He’s also racked up fouls on opposing big men. In the Huskies’ 72-70 comeback victory over Washington State on Sunday night, Dickerson drew seven fouls. And he made his free throws, too, finishing 4-of-5.
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But while UW doesn’t necessarily need Dickerson’s scoring inside, it helps. When the Huskies were struggling against Washington State, Dickerson did a little bit of everything to lead the rally.
He finished with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. He also had two assists and just one turnover.
It was Dickerson who came through with the game’s biggest basket. With the Huskies leading by two points with less than a minute left, Jaylen Nowell drove into the lane for a layup attempt. But when the ball bounced off the rim, Dickerson was there for the tip-in that gave UW a decisive 71-67 lead with 24 seconds left.
“Guys did a good job getting him the ball for the most part,” said head coach Mike Hopkins. “They were making sure they found out where he was. “(Washington State) defended him in different ways. I felt in the first (half) they doubled him. Just pass it out, we got wide-open 3s. You just have to trust it. I know it’s a little bit boring, but sometimes boring is good.
“You’ve got to be disciplined enough to figure out who they are taking away and making the extra pass. I feel for the most part when Noah is in the game and doing that, he’s such a big threat. He changes everything.”
Nowell agreed. When Dickerson is playing well inside, he said, the game comes easier for everyone else.
“If they don’t double team (him),” Nowell said, “just give him the bucket or the foul.”
It would be nearly impossible to count the number of times Hopkins has said the words “defense travels” this season.
His point is simple. Offense, he says, comes and goes. But UW’s defense has to stay consistent. If the Huskies can play well defensively on the road, they’ll always have a chance to win
In the first half against Washington State, the Huskies’ defense wasn’t up to their high standards. They allowed the Cougars to shoot 59.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. It’s why UW allowed 45 points — the most its given up in a first half during Pac-12 play — and went into the break down nine points.
In the second half, though, UW tightened up. Nowell said the Huskies took Washington State’s early success personally. After the break, the Cougars shot 36.4 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.
“They were obviously shooting every shot they wanted,” Nowell said. “Didn’t they score 45 points on us? Which has never really been done to us. We just made it a point to come out and lock that up.”
Dickerson said it’s difficult to guard Washington State because of the amount of 3-point shooters on the Cougars’ roster. The Huskies made the necessary adjustments in the second half.
“Basically, all we did is we started talking to each other, starting communicating what to do and our defense just started sky-rocketing,” Dickerson said. “They started rushing into quick shots, the shots that we wanted them to take, and we’d take the rebound and we ran.”
UW shot to the top of the Pac-12 standings by winning its first 10 games in conference play. Now, with six games left on the schedule, the Huskies are 11-1 and still have a comfortable lead over the rest of the conference.
Oregon State, who UW beat on the road and faces again at home on March 6, is in second place at 8-4.
Arizona State and Utah are both 8-5. The Huskies fell to Arizona State last week but topped the Utes on the road in January. UW will face Utah for the second time on Wednesday.
The Huskies only have one road trip remaining. They’ll travel to Cal on Feb. 28 before playing at Stanford on March 3. Stanford is 7-6 in conference play, while the Golden Bears are 0-13.
“I think right now, there’s nothing we’re going to put in that’s different,” Hopkins said. “Bottom line, we got to be able have our energy, we got to be able to be together. That’s going to be a huge part of being successful, especially down the stretch.”