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UW Looking To Play A Full 40 Minutes Friday Night

It is the holiday season, and everyone is in the spirit of giving. And in that vein, Mike Hopkins wants his basketball team to spread that thought around a little bit, especially in light of the two distinct halves the Washington Huskies played against Virginia Tech last Saturday in Atlantic City.

The first half? They get down 38-21. The second half? They win it 40-34, but by that time the damage had already been done. They don’t give you credit for half a win in the scorebook.

“You always talk about one more, making the extra pass,” Hopkins said ahead of the Huskies Friday night game versus Sacramento State. “Being aware of your other teammates. You have a game (Virginia Tech) where first half we had three assists and however many turnovers…that’s also a result of not making shots, so you go back to the quality of shots – to the second half, we have 12 assists. Gonzaga, the second half was one of our best assist-to-turnover ratio games. It’s all about making the right play, and as a coach we always say we want to play right. Play right is, if they want to defend us this way, this is what I’ve been trained to do. Pocket pass comes? Skip it to a great shooter. Find the open man. Have rhythm offensively where the ball is moving, it’s touching everybody’s hands. If you see Noah (Dickerson) in the post, let’s get it to him. That’s how we’ve designed how we want to play.

“As a coach you’re just trying to hold them accountable to that system and that form. The problem is, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. We might rush a shot, we might force a shot…I don’t think that’s selfish play, I just think it’s like, oh I’m gonna go. You’ve got to be able to find guys, help guys, move the ball. This is a game…it’s a contagious game. You pass the ball, and not it’s like everyone’s passing the ball. It’s contagious. You take a bad shot? Next thing you know it’s oh my gosh, another bad shot. It’s a contagious type of game, it really is. It’s the same thing with the energy that you bring. We just need to be more consistent. Virginia Tech, it was like two different teams. The second half of the Gonzaga game, different teams. Auburn? Meh. It was better, but we weren’t great. Western Kentucky…what kind of team was that? And then the second half we won by 18 against a really good team.

“So we’ve shown signs. There just hasn’t been that consistency. But it’s there.”

Hopkins hopes that ‘contagious’ way of playing shows up more often.

“In certain games, we play good for 32 minutes? We need to play good for 40 minutes,” he said. “Guys come off the bench, enhance it. Don’t bring it down. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Senior guard Matisse Thybulle know what Hopkins is talking about, because he’s living it. He feels it when the energy starts to wain or even when everything is clicking.

“Yeah. Everything’s contagious – especially in basketball,” Thybulle said. “It can go from Coach Hop’s energy when we walk out on to the floor at practice. That’s contagious. In the same way the success that we have when we’re making shots and playing great defense, how that’s all contagious – the mistakes are the same thing. You just have to be a little bit more resilient with that stuff.

“I can feel it, most people can see it. And I think it’s pretty obvious. When we start to have a little bit of success, it’s like this illusion of being easy. When you see the ball go in so much and you get all these stops it’s like we’ve got this. This is fine. And we forget that we really had to work hard for that to be the case. It’s not allowing our success to make us forget how hard we worked at it. Have to keep focusing on it.”

SACRAMENTO STATE SCOUTING REPORT

Here’s what Hopkins said about the Hornets:

“6-2, they beat Cal State Fullerton. This is a team, the coach (Brian Katz) has had a lot of success. He’s been a Coach of the Year, National (Mid Major) Coach of the Year I think in 2015. Had one of those teams that was just incredible. We talk about respect your opponent, respect the game and we know that if we don’t play well we can lose to anybody. But we also know that if we play well we won’t lose. We can beat anybody. Really focused defensively. This is a team, they don’t shoot great from the three-point line but they have guys that have last year. So we’ve still got to defend it. We’ve got to do what we do, just have to do it better.

“This opponent, they can pressure. They can run and jump. They try to create turnovers, try to get out of the half court. Trying to create some offense out of their defense. One of the best offensive rebounding teams around, in the Big Sky they are number-one right now. So we’ve got to rebound the basketball, keep them out of the paint and defend the three-point line.”


Full Video Interviews and Selected Quotes

Mike Hopkins

What did you learn from Atlantic City?

“Gotta have better starts. Got hit early like the Auburn game. We were able to make some adjustments in the second half and get back in the game. But we were in too big a deficit. So just the starts and really being focused out there. Execute better. They took us out of what we did and we didn’t handle it too well at first.”

What made the difference in the second half?

“They were icing, which means they were kind of corralling you on the side. Jaylen started a couple little pocket passes to Noah. They came over to Noah and Noah skipped it…just making that extra pass, finding the open man. Our movement was better in the second half. Defensively we held them to 73 points. Those were good enough defensive numbers to beat them. We had to be able to score and make some shots, but unfortunately we got in too big a hole and didn’t make ’em in the first half.”

Do you feel like you’re close to where you want to be now that conference is just a couple of weeks away?

“Obviously we wish we won all of them, right? But I think those games help you. I really believe we did the right thing. We had a great game against the Zags. The Auburn game and the Virginia Tech games, the first halves were pretty similar. There were great moments, it just wasn’t a full game. And Minnesota we controlled the game for most of the game but lost on a last-second shot and didn’t make the plays down the stretch.

“Am I happy where we’re at? No. It wasn’t perfect but I feel like we’re becoming a better team because of that. Hopefully we can play well (against Sacramento State) and finish off the non-conference schedule going up. You play those games to have a great conference season. I think it will help us.”

If you had to make your case today to the NCAA committee, you feel like your record isn’t representative of how you’ve played?

“I think people watch us and say this is a good basketball team. We were one of three teams that played three top-15 teams. Duke had three neutral sites, Gonzaga had two neutral and a home and we did two road (and a neutral). If you put anyone else in our situation, a top-25 team, they could have the exact same results with the places that we’ve played and the teams that we played. I think Auburn was 17-1 last year at home with a league that had eight NCAA tournament teams. That says a lot. We did what the committee and everyone says you had to do. Did we get the wins that we wanted? Not as many as we wanted. I still think we’re a good basketball team. Lot of season left. We’ve got two really good teams…Sacramento State is a really good team, then play Cal State Fullerton, who was in the NCAA Tournament last year – and then it’s your conference.

“If there’s one truth, it’s how you go and how you play. If we keep showing that we’re getting better, that’s what everybody’s looking for. I think we’re a really good team and we’ve played the second-hardest schedule in the country based on the teams played and their winning percentage. We’re right behind Kansas.”

Areas to improve?

“You always talk about one more, making the extra pass. Being aware of your other teammates. You have a game (Virginia Tech) where first half we had three assists and however many turnovers…that’s also a result of not making shots, so you go back to the quality of shots – to the second half, we have 12 assists. Gonzaga, the second half was one of our best assist-to-turnover ratio games. It’s all about making the right play, and as a coach we always say we want to play right. Play right is, if they want to defend us this way, this is what I’ve been trained to do. Pocket pass comes? Skip it to a great shooter. Find the open man. Have rhythm offensively where the ball is moving, it’s touching everybody’s hands. If you see Noah in the post, let’s get it to him.

“That’s how we’ve designed how we want to play. As a coach you’re just trying to hold them accountable to that system and that form. The problem is, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. We might rush a shot, we might force a shot…I don’t think that’s selfish play, I just think it’s like, oh I’m gonna go. You’ve got to be able to find guys, help guys, move the ball. This is a game…it’s a contagious game. You pass the ball, and not it’s like everyone’s passing the ball. It’s contagious. You take a bad shot? Next thing you know it’s oh my gosh, another bad shot. It’s a contagious type of game, it really is. It’s the same thing with the energy that you bring. We just need to be more consistent. Virginia Tech, it was like two different teams. The second half of the Gonzaga game, different teams. Auburn? Meh. It was better, but we weren’t great. Western Kentucky…what kind of team was that? And then the second half we won by 18 against a really good team.

“So we’ve shown signs. There just hasn’t been that consistency. But it’s there.”

Overriding message these last two non-conference games?

“I think if you look statistically at us defensively, the numbers that stand out to me is, we were one of the best three-point defensive teams in the country last year. Right now we’re in the 200’s. Now our two-point percentage, all the other ones are better. But that number…it can’t happen. It goes back to what I was saying about Dom Green…he gets eight threes, one was bad. Seven were good. If he makes 2, 3, 4 – you’re a different team. It goes back the other way. If you’re giving up 10 threes a game and Kansas is averaging 13-14 and we give up what? Three? Four? Those are big numbers. So we have to do a better job of defending the three-point line. That’s a big part of it. The other part is rebounding. Those are the glaring areas. We’re still playing good defense. We just have to enhance it. Defend the three-point line.”

On Sacramento State…

“6-2, they beat Cal State Fullerton. This is a team, the coach has had a lot of success. He’s been a Coach of the Year, National Coach of the Year I think in 2015. Had one of those teams that was just incredible. We talk about respect your opponent, respect the game and we know that if we don’t play well we can lose to anybody. But we also know that if we play well we won’t lose. We can beat anybody. Really focused defensively. This is a team, they don’t shoot great from the three-point line but they have guys that have last year. So we’ve still got to defend it. We’ve got to do what we do, just have to do it better.

“And then, like in certain games, we play good for 32 minutes? We need to play good for 40 minutes. Guys come off the bench, enhance it. Don’t bring it down. That’s what we’re looking for. This opponent, they can pressure. They can run and jump. They try to create turnovers, try to get out of the half court. Trying to create some offense out of their defense. One of the best offensive rebounding teams around, in the Big Sky they are number-one right now. So we’ve got to rebound the basketball, keep them out of the paint and defend the three-point line.”


Matisse Thybulle

On being able to tell when things are coming together or falling apart…

“I can feel it, most people can see it. And I think it’s pretty obvious. When we start to have a little bit of success, it’s like this illusion of being easy. When you see the ball go in so much and you get all these stops it’s like we’ve got this. This is fine. And we forget that we really had to work hard for that to be the case. It’s not allowing our success to make us forget how hard we worked at it. Have to keep focusing on it.”

On things being contagious on the court, both good and bad…

“Yeah. Everything’s contagious – especially in basketball. It can go from Coach Hop’s energy when we walk out on to the floor at practice. That’s contagious. In the same way the success that we have when we’re making shots and playing great defense, how that’s all contagious – the mistakes are the same thing. You just have to be a little bit more resilient with that stuff.”

On slow starts…

“We just have to hit the ground running. We’ve got to create our own energy. Sometimes I think we rely on defensive stops or made shots to bring us energy, or for Coach Hop to bring us energy. And you don’t have that at the beginning of a game. It’s 0-0, nothing’s happened. We need to be able to come in every game and hit the ground running, as opposed to letting the game come and speed us up.”

What has the non-conference schedule taught you about this team?

“We can play with the best of them. We’ve proven that. And also it’s allowed us to see where we have to grow and get better. We’re really lucky for that, it can help us down the line. As opposed to playing an easy non-conference where you are just running through everyone. You don’t realize where you need the work, where you’re growing. As much as it hurts because losses never feel good, we have the chance now to see very clearly what it is we need to work on. So now that there’s no secrets, once we have it figured out it’s pretty tough for guys down the road to beat us.”

What do you need to do these last two games to hit conference play trending up?

“Try and get a full 40 minutes in where we’re playing hard together and refusing to let up off the gas. And to continue to play as a team. As a team we’re tough, as tough as anyone in the country.”

Do you have a sense of what the team is capable of if they can put a full 40 minutes together?

“We’ve shown spurts of it and you see glimpses of it in every game. We almost came back down 20 against Virginia Tech. I don’t know what the run we had against Gonzaga where we held them to a stretch of only four points…those spurts are so exciting because we can be so dominant at times. We need to continue to soak up those moments and learn what we can from those to try and recreate them and stretch them out for longer periods of time. That can help us a lot in the season.”


TEAM STATISTICS

Washington

Sacramento State


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