Matisse Thybulle wasn’t sure if his teammates noticed how long Utah went without making a field goal on Wednesday night. But if you asked him in the midst of it, Thybulle wouldn’t have been able to tell you the Utes’ drought lasted nearly 16 minutes.
He could have told you Washington (21-5, 12-1 Pac-12) was at its best defensively during the 62-45 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena. And he knew for sure that the Utes (14-12, 8-6) were frustrated. That much he could feel.
“You just know when they reach a point where they don’t even know what to do anymore,” Thybulle said. “I think we were just so locked in defensively that we were lost in the game. When we poked our heads above water, we realized what we had done. It was incredible.”
What it took Thybulle time to realize is that UW held Utah without a field goal for a 15 minute, 48 second period that stretched from the end of the first half deep into the second. The Utes scored just 18 points in the second half on 5-of-20 shooting from the field, including 2-of-8 from the 3-point line.
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With just more than 6 minutes left in the first half, Thybulle hit a 3-pointer that capped a 13-3 run for UW. The spurt brought the Huskies back from a 17-7 deficit to tie the game at 20.
The Huskies outscored Utah 42-25 from that point forward. They weren’t outstanding offensively — UW shot just 40 percent from the field and 20 percent from the 3-point line — but their defense was stifling.
“It feels great,” said point guard David Crisp. “It feels really good knowing that guys are like, ‘Man, this zone. We got to come back and try to score on this again.’ They’re trying everything they can do and we’re taking everything away.”
As UW’s defense tightened, Crisp watched the Utes’ frustration boil over. And while Utah’s players argued on the floor, the Huskies just kept gaining confidence.
“Guys work even harder and the crowd starts getting into it,” Crisp said. “You see guys flying around, guys talking, active hands.”
It took a few minutes and some early timeouts for UW to clamp down defensively. Utah grabbed an early advantage behind leading scorer Sedrick Barefield, who scored 12 points in the first half on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
“We came out in the first half, I don’t think we gave them as much respect as we should have and also we weren’t sticking to the scout, to the game plan,” Thybulle said. “In the second half, we just came out and we knew what we had to do. Once we started getting to our spots and getting rebounds to end the possessions, I mean, we know what we can do defensively.”
The Huskies closed the first half by outscoring the Utes 12-2. Dominic Green made a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to send UW into halftime with a 33-27 advantage. After the break, the Huskies picked up where they left off by outscoring Utah 13-2.
They extended their lead to 46-29 before Both Gach recorded Utah’s first field goal of the second half: a 3-pointer with 8:50 remaining. Barefield didn’t score after the break.
“It wasn’t a great offensive game for the most part,” said head coach Mike Hopkins. “We got to credit Utah. We just kept telling our guys, this is a defensive game. Offensively, just run our stuff, share the ball. Defensively, that’s where we got to be great.”
And the Huskies were great.
They held Utah to its lowest point total of the season. The previous low came in UW’s 69-53 victory in January. The Utes turned the ball over 18 times, shot 28 percent from the field and made just 14 total field goals.
“We just stayed disciplined,” Crisp said. “Everybody did their job … Defense is all effort and mentality. As long as we’re locked in and working hard defensively, we’re a problem on defense.”
Thybulle, as usual, caused the biggest issues defensively. Although he admitted to leaving Barefield open on the 3-point line in the first half, Crisp was quick to point out that Thybulle made up for it with four blocks and six steals. He also scored 10 points.
Nahziah Carter had 12 points off the bench for UW, while Noah Dickerson finished with 11. Crisp and Jaylen Nowell each had 10. Barefield led Utah with 12 points. No other Utah player reached double figures.
“We had to want the game more than they wanted the game,” Hopkins said. “Our guys showed that in the second half.”