They got a standing ovation, Washington’s four seniors. With 31.7 seconds remaining, head coach Mike Hopkins subbed them all out at once: David Crisp, Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, Dominic Green.
They untucked their jerseys, walked slowly toward the bench. They each stopped to give Hopkins a hug and then worked their way down the line, greeting teammates as they went. There were more hugs, some pats on the back. But there were no smiles.
The four of them stopped at the edge of the tunnel, watching the clock wind down. And as the buzzer sounded on Oregon’s 55-47 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena, Crisp and Dickerson shared a long embrace.
Every other home game this year ended in a victory. The Huskies ran away with some of them. They had to scratch and claw for others. The sold-out crowd on Saturday night was just waiting for them to do it again. But UW could never quite get there, and the seniors’ last home game didn’t end the way any of them envisioned.
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Afterward, the Huskies lingered on the court for moment to thank the student section. And then they filtered off, until only Crisp and Thybulle remained. They walked off together, Thybulle’s arm draped over Crisp’s shoulders.
Hopkins took a moment to reflect on the seniors’ careers during his postgame press conference, starting with when he took over the program last year.
“From day one when we got in the room,” Hopkins said, “I told them it’s going to take a lot of work, it’s going to take a lot of togetherness. But at the end of the day, we’re not going to let people just come in and get Ws.
“Early on, it was a little rough. We started building momentum. Just to see them grow, see them learn how to win, see them compete and play with each other. … I’m really, really proud of them.”
Hopkins and Thybulle both said it was hard to know whether the emotion of the pregame ceremony factored in to UW’s slow start. Dickerson, though, was quick to nix the idea. The problem was simple, he said. They just couldn’t make a shot.
The Huskies fell behind by 16 points in the first half. Thybulle opened the game with a 3-pointer and added another within the first 6 minutes, but it took nearly 7 minutes for UW to score again on a jumper from Jaylen Nowell.
“I felt like the energy was good,” Hopkins said. “I don’t feel like we lacked that. I think we lacked execution and a little bit of focus. Some of the plays we’ve made all year we just didn’t make.”
UW shot 21.7 percent (5-for-23) from the field in the first half. They took nine 3-pointers. but made just two. The Ducks built their advantage by shooting 44.4 percent, outscoring UW 24-8 over the first 15 minutes of the game.
“I feel like we settled early,” Thybulle said. “That was a huge reason why we kind of got into a slump. They were giving us (3-pointers) and we were taking them. Once we started missing, we didn’t really try to get out of it and get to the hoop and get it in to (Dickerson). I think that hurt us early, just settling a little bit and allowing their defense to let us be passive.”
The Huskies closed the gap by halftime, using a 10-3 run to pull within 27-18. It was still their lowest scoring first half of the season.
UW carried the momentum into the second half, starting on a 9-3 run to trim Oregon’s advantage to three points, 30-27. But 20 seconds later, Payton Pritchard drained a 3-pointer that pushed the Ducks’ lead back to six. It was a reoccurring theme in the second half: UW would get within three points, Oregon would immediately push back.
The sold-out crowd stood and cheered and begged. Nowell repeatedly drove to the basket. Dickerson drew 11 fouls inside, once diving for his own offensive rebound on a missed free throw and drawing the fifth foul on the Ducks’ Paul White.
But the hole was too deep, and the Huskies were too off-balance. They allowed Oregon to shoot 42.9 percent for the game and turned the ball over 15 times. The Ducks scored 16 points off those mistakes.
“We’d be right on the cusp of getting back into it and there’d be a three or a turnover or a key steal or we’d give up a rebound,” Thybulle said. “We just couldn’t seal the comeback, really. They played hard the whole game and they didn’t really let up.”
Oregon hit the the dagger with 2:10 left in the game and UW trailing 50-44. After Pritchard stole the ball from Nowell, Louis King drained a 3-pointer to push the Ducks’ lead to 53-44. The Huskies never recovered.
“A couple times we were extended where we got late in the shot clock and we didn’t get the defensive rebound,” Hopkins said. “I thought we had chances, even though we didn’t play well offensively, to where we could have made a stand.”
But that stand never came.
Nowell finished with 17 points while Dickerson had 14 points and 16 rebounds, but no other Husky reached double figures.
Thybulle had his usual stat line: Six points, five steals, three blocks. But he never made another shot after those first two 3-pointers, finishing 2-of-7 from the field. Crisp didn’t make a basket until late in the second half. He finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting. Green went 0-for-5 from the field.
UW doesn’t have much time to dwell on the defeat. The first-seeded Huskies will open the Pac-12 tournament against the winner of No. 8 USC and No. 9 Arizona on Thursday.
UW just has to learn from the loss, Hopkins said, and then move forward.
“Listen, these kids want to win,” Hopkins said. “That’s the one thing when you talk about changing culture, changing a program, is that winning mindset. Losing’s not fun. One of our mottos has always been, ‘Doesn’t matter, get better.’ That’s what we’re focused on.”