Thanks to three-point ace Dominic Green, the Huskies recovered their shooting stroke just in time to beat California 71-52 on Saturday for their seventh straight win.
Washington coach Mike Hopkins has a bunch of nicknames for backup guard Dominic Green, whom he affectionately dubbed “Mean Green” last year as a tribute to his defensive prowess.
The stringy 6-foot-6 senior has developed into one of the team’s better defenders and his activity in the 2-3 zone is a big reason why UW leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense in conference games.
But Green – first and foremost – is a shooter at heart.
And after Washington beat California 71-52 on Saturday, Hopkins came up with another nickname for the team’s three-point specialist.
“He’s The Monster on Montlake,” Hopkins said. “The guy can shoot. He changes the game. He did it in every game that we play. He comes in and hits two or three and changes the game.
“I’m so proud of him because I think he’s one of the best snipers in the country. He’s a heckuva weapon.”
Green came off the bench and hit four three-pointers for a game-high 17 points on a day when the Huskies struggled to make a shot behind the arc.
Washington missed 13 of its first 14 shots – including 10 of 11 three-pointers – and fell behind by 11 points, which created a high level of anxiety inside Alaska Airlines Arena.
A near-capacity crowd of 9,225 – the largest of the season – came out to celebrate the men’s basketball team’s 1,000th win at old Hec Edmundson Pavilion, but the UW fans were squirming in their seats early.
“We weren’t playing with a high level of energy,” Green said. “We were playing down. We weren’t fully engaged. It took us a while to get the oil in the car running and get it warm.”
After falling behind 23-12 with 6:12 remaining before the break, Green hit three three-pointers during a 17-5 run to end the first half.
The Huskies went into halftime ahead 29-28 and continued rolling in the second half for their seventh straight win.
“The big thing that you’re always battling is human nature,” Hopkins said. “I just felt like we settled a little too much. I thought we got good three-pointers, but we just started shooting too many.
“They (Cal) were doing a really good job at being aggressive and got the lead. I was proud of our guys for coming back and actually having a halftime lead.”
The Huskies ran away in the second half and outscored the Golden Bears 42-24. UW held Cal to 22.6 percent shooting (7 of 31) in the second half.
It wasn’t the first time Green has saved the Huskies with his shooting.
In November, he hit seven three-pointers for 25 points – both career highs – during a blowout win over Eastern Washington.
And the Huskies won’t soon forget Green’s buzzer-beating three last year to knock off No. 9 Arizona.
Few teams are fortunate to have a veteran shooter on the bench who can take over games. Washington is 8-1 this season and 16-2 in the past two seasons when Green makes at least two three-pointers.
“Everybody thinks about his shooting, but watch him play defense,” Hopkins said. “Watch him talk. He’s the ultimate team guy. To see a senior have that type of production his senior year is so much fun to watch. He’s all heart and soul. He’s all team.
“We wouldn’t be in the situation that we’re in this year or had the year we had last year without Dominic Green.”
Green led a balanced attack that received major contributions from David Crisp (12 points and three three-pointers), Noah Dickerson (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Jaylen Nowell (11 points and four assists).
Washington connected on 10 of 27 three-pointers, which ultimately turned the game. But an equally larger story was UW’s perimeter defense that held Cal to 1-for-15 shooting behind the arc.
“We were just doing our job,” said guard Matisse Thybulle, who finished with 13 points, five blocks, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. “We take pride in being able to take away three-pointers.
“Coach Hop made it an emphasis for this game. We did our job. We executed what we wanted to do and it shows.”
The Bears (5-13, 0-6) lost their seventh straight. Paris Austin and Andre Kelly each had 12 points for Cal.
Washington (14-4, 5-0 ) is off to its best conference start since the 1983-84 season when the Huskies finished 15-3.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but none of these things are going to change what we do in the game,” Thybulle said. “We’re getting everyone’s best shot. It makes people want to beat us even more and that means that we have to play even better.
“We’re accepting the challenge and we’re going to take it head on and it’s exciting.”