The senior is relied upon for his defense but he was slumping with his shot, especially on three-pointers. Going back to the fundamentals and working hard in the gym has helped him break out of his funk in the past six games.
Through the first month of the season, Matisse Thybulle felt as if he was stuck in limbo.
As hard as the Washington Huskies guard tried, his three-point shot wasn’t falling and each miss sank him deeper into depression.
Thybulle entered the season shooting a respectable 37.8 percent during his previous three years at UW.
However, he converted just 3 of 23 three-pointers through the first six games.
“I wasn’t really sure why it was happening,” he said “And I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I was trying different things.”
After consultation with coach Mike Hopkins, Thybulle re-examined and reconstructed his shooting mechanics.
“What coach Hop helped me see is get back to the fundamentals,” Thybulle said. “Go back to ground zero and then build back up. That’s kind of what we had to do.”
In the past five games, Thybulle has made 13 of 29 (44.8 percent) three-pointers, including a career-high tying five in UW’s last outing – a 73-61 loss to No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Thybulle is reluctant to say definitely his slump is over and he’s a little uneasy predicting what’s going to happen as Washington (7-4) heads into Friday’s 6 p.m. nonconference game against Sacramento State (6-2) at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I’d rather talk about my struggles than my success,” he said. “It’s easier for me to talk about how I was in that slump than it is for me how I’ve been making shots now.”
So how did he turn things around?
“A lot of it had to do with everything that was going on up here,” Thybulle said tapping an index finger to the side of his head. “Allowing myself to go back through the remedial things, that allowed me to shoot at a high level (and) freed up my mind so that there wasn’t going to be anything holding me back when I got on the court.”
The extra work in the gym led to a renewed confidence, which then resulted in shooting performances.
“He’s really worked,” Hopkins said. “He got in the gym and started working. Matisse loves to do his visualization and the mental side of the game. He’s worked on that.
“It’s just hard work and confidence. As soon as he started doing that – not that he wasn’t before – but elevating that, you’ve seen a big change. He’s also feeling more comfortable when to go and when not to go.”
The 6-foot-5 senior guard is a defensive menace who received the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award last season.
Usually his biggest impact is on the defensive end where he leads the Pac-12 with 2.8 steals per game and is tied for fourth in the league with 2.1 blocks.
But there are times when Washington needs his scoring when opponents are intent on shutting down all-Pac-12 forward Noah Dickerson.
“Noah is so talented that one person isn’t enough, so they’re bringing two and they bring double (teams),” Thybulle said. “Noah is such a willing passer and is now becoming (aware of) where guys are and the open guy will be.
“Coach Hop says it’s like playing H-O-R-S-E. Once we can get all of that to come together I think it’s going to be really, really hard for anyone to guard us as a team because of Noah.”
Despite scoring a season-high 18 points against then-No. 1 Gonzaga and tallying 16 points last week against Virginia Tech, the Huskies squandered Thybulle’s best offensive outings of the season and lost both games.
Even though Thybulle averages 8.5 points – nearly three points fewer than last season – his importance on the offensive end is undeniable.
“When he’s shooting the ball the way he is at a high level and high clip, it’s great to see,” Hopkins said. “And obviously, it’s going to help us.”