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Huskies learning from non-conference schedule

The players can feel it when things are going right. Fans can see it, too. In fact, said senior Matisse Thybulle, it should be fairly obvious to everyone when Washington is firing on all cylinders.

The trouble is, that’s rarely happened for UW this season. Not consistently, anyway.

Take the Huskies’ latest loss to Virginia Tech, when they went into the break trailing 39-21. UW adjusted in the second half, outscoring the Hokies 40-34, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the halftime deficit created by a lackluster early performance.

The difference before and after the break was drastic. UW shot 27.5 percent from the field in the first half and 45.2 percent in the second. In the first half, the Huskies had four assists. They had 11 after halftime.

It’s been a trend for UW this season. Sometimes, the the Huskies build a big lead and let it slip away. Other times, they fall behind early and have to play catch-up. Rare have been the games where they play well the entire way through.

“When you start to have a little success, there’s almost this illusion like it was easy,” Thybulle said. “Because when you see the ball go in so much and you see us get all those stops, it’s like, ‘Oh, we got this.’

“We forget that we had to work really hard for that to be the case. Not allowing our success to make us forget how hard we worked is something we got to keep focusing on.”

UW has played a difficult non-conference schedule featuring three top-15 teams in Auburn, Gonzaga and Virginia Tech. The Huskies lost all of those games with their best performance coming in a two-point loss to then-No. 1 Gonzaga.

While UW didn’t pick up a resume-boosting victory over one of the nationally ranked teams it faced, Thybulle said he’s still grateful the Huskies put together one of the toughest non-conference slates in the country.

“It’s allowed us to see where we have to grow, where we have to get better,” Thybulle said. “I think we’re really lucky for that because it’s going to help us down the line as opposed to playing an easy non-conference when you’re running through everyone. You don’t realize where you need to work and where you need to grow.

“As much as it hurts because losses never feel good, we have a chance now to see very clearly what we need to work on. There’s no secrets. So once we figure it out, it’s going to be tough for guys down the road to beat us.”

Finding consistency isn’t easy. There is no magic formula. Head coach Mike Hopkins said it just comes down to making the right plays, and then making sure that happens over an entire 40 minutes.

Mistakes, Hopkins said, tend to build off each other. One turnover leads to a second. One player rushing makes everyone else rush, too.

“If you pass the ball, it seems like everybody starts passing the ball,” Hopkins said. “If you take a bad shot, next thing you know… It’s a contagious type of game, it really is. It’s the same thing with the energy you bring.”

The Huskies have to be more resilient, Thybulle said, and not allow their mistakes to spiral. That’s what they’ll be focused on during their final two non-conference games: Friday against Sacramento State and Jan. 1 against Cal State Fullerton.

UW will open Pac-12 play at home against Washington State on Jan. 5.

“Am I happy where we’re at? No, it wasn’t perfect,” Hopkins said, “but I feel like we are becoming a better team because of that and hopefully we can play well (Friday) night and finish off the non-conference schedule.”

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