The Huskies improved to 6-2 thanks to a big game from Noah Dickerson, late heroics from Jaylen Nowell and a surprise offensive contribution from Matisse Thybulle. But will it be good enough to beat No. 1 Gonzaga on Wednesday?
Washington closed out UC Santa Barbara in the finals minutes for a 67-63 victory on Sunday night at Alaska Airlines Arena.
It’s the second straight win for the Huskies, which gives them a little bit of momentum heading into Wednesday’s game at No. 1 Gonzaga.
Three quick impressions from the win.
Noah Dickerson is back in shape
There was a little concern that the all-Pac-12 forward had backtracked after overcoming a preseason knee injury and averaging 26 points during in the final two games at the Vancouver Showcase two weeks ago.
After tallying a season-high 28 points against Minnesota, Dickerson missed the first half of the Eastern Washington game last Tuesday due to an illness. He finished with just 7 points in 11 minutes, which was the first time this season he failed to notch double-digits in scoring.
Dickerson returned the starting lineup Sunday and was as dominant as ever. At times he used force to clear the path for rim-rattling dunks. And other times, he spun around defenders before softly laying the ball off the glass.
And when those tactics didn’t work, Dickerson drew fouls and scored at the line.
He finished with a game-high while connecting on 6 of 8 field and 10 of 13 free throws. He also had eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal to offset four turnovers in 35 minutes.
This time the third scorer is … Matisse Thybulle
Dickerson and Jaylen Nowell (17 points and five assists) have been consistent performers on the offensive end.
However, the Huskies have struggled to find an alternative scoring option to complement their stars.
Some nights the third scorer is Dominic Green, who came into Sunday’s game on the heels of a career-best 25 point performance in the previous outing. But he finished with just three points on 1-for-7 shooting – all behind the arc.
Other nights David Crisp or Nahziah Carter has carried the offense on momentum-shifting spurts.
On Sunday, it was Thybulle, who entered the game shooting 18.5 percent (5 of 27) behind the arc.
The Huskies have been waiting for their defensive ace to break out of a scoring slump and he finished with a season-high 13 points on 5-of-10 shoting, including 3 of 6 on three-pointers.
“It’s fun to see him as a confidence player,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “We need to get a couple of other guys at a confident level and right now I think they’re not. We’ve got to get everybody moving in the right direction and confident. That’s when we’re going to become a really good team.”
As good as Thybulle was offensively, he was at his best at the top of UW’s 2-3 zone where he finished with six steals.
UW needs to expand the rotation
During his postgame interview, Hopkins said he’d like to create a role off the bench for Jamal Bey. The 6-foot-6 freshman guard impressed the coaching staff during the Eastern Washington game when he finished with five points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
Hopkins also said backup forwards Sam Timmins and Hameir Wright are lacking in confidence, which stems from a lack of productivity. Their on-court inconsistency has resulted in neither being able to lock up a starting job and forced Hopkins to rely on four-guard lineups with Green on the wing.
The Huskies will need Timmins bulk and Wright’s length when they play against Gonzaga’s formdiable front line that features 6-8 forwards Rui Hachimura (21.9 points and 6.1 rebounds) and Brandon Clarke (17.3 and 7.8).