The first week of CBB was a mixed bag for the Dawgs, with both a comeback win over Western Kentucky and a blowout loss to Auburn
Talk about hot and cold.
After playing a stellar second half to secure a 73-55 comeback win against Western Kentucky on Tuesday, the No. 25 University of Washington Huskies men’s basketball team looked poised to at least give No. 11 Auburn a fight.
Judging by what happened on the court however, it was clear that was far from the case. The Dawgs were soundly beaten in just about every phase of the game, falling to the Tigers 88-66.
Now, it must be noted that this is a very, very good Auburn team. And yes, the Huskies (at No. 25) didn’t lose a game that they should’ve won. Auburn is ranked higher for a reason. That being said, there is some cause for concern here.
Against WKU, the Dawgs played a middling first half, going into the break down 36-27. They surged out of halftime however, ripping off a 13-0 run to take the lead. The team’s defense was absolutely stellar in the second period, holding the Hilltoppers to just 19 points. Washington looked much better controlling the ball than in their exhibition, giving the rock away eight times. Their shooting was more of a mixed bag though.
The Dawgs shot the ball at a 40 percent clip, but managed just 20 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Simply put, they just have to be more consistent with the three-ball. That kind of percentage isn’t going to get it done most weeks.
Matisse Thybulle was a revelation on defense once again, notching a whopping six blocks. That he manages to consistently play such strong, physical defense without fouling out is impressive. He was also one of three players with six boards. The Dawgs may not have one single player who seemingly vacuums up every rebound, but this team has enough solid rebounders to get around that.
If WKU was a tale of two halves, Auburn was a beatdown from the opening tip-off. The Tigers went for the jugular right away, starting the contest off with a 14-2 run. The Dawgs, though they certainly tried, were never able to close the gap. By the time the first half was done, they trailed 48-30. They rallied somewhat in the second half, but were still outscored 40-36. Against a team as good as Auburn, it’s much harder to mount a serious comeback than against a team like WKU.
Turnovers were an issue once again, with Noah Dickerson and Jaylen Nowell giving it away (also the team’s leading scorers) five and six times, respectively. The team had 18 total turnovers on the day. Thybulle also had a middling stat line, with two block and two steals to go with seven points and five assists.
Oddly enough, the Dawgs were miles better at shooting the ball, coming in at 55.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from deep. Perhaps more telling is that they only have 21 assists through two games. This is clearly a team that relies on its stars to do the scoring themselves, which can work sometimes. Unfortunately for them however, their top scoring players also have a proclivity to turn the ball over. If the Huskies are serious about being contenders for the conference and beyond this season, one of those two things has to change. Stud scorers in college being lax with ball security is nothing new, but it’s on coach Mike Hopkins to adjust his game plan to cover that deficiency.
There are more positives that can be taken from the Auburn game though, and Nahziah Carter is one of them. Coming off of the bench, the sophomore forward put up 16 points and turned the ball over just once. Having that kind of firepower on the bench will be huge going forward.
The other thing to takeaway is that this loss doesn’t hurt the Dawgs that badly. As mentioned earlier, Auburn is No. 11. Had the Dawgs managed a win, it obviously would’ve been incredible for their resumé. However, the season is young enough that a loss to a good team shouldn’t hurt them too much. With clashes against No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 15 Virginia Tech still on the docket, there’s plenty of time for the Huskies to bolster their NCAA tournament claim.
Next up for the Dawgs is an 8 p.m. clash with San Diego on Monday night.