SEATTLE — It was the kind of game Washington head coach Mike Hopkins had been waiting for.
The Huskies had three players reach double figures in their 85-67 victory over Washington State on Jan. 5. Point guard David Crisp had his best game of the year, leading UW with 23 points. Jaylen Nowell added 20, while Matisse Thybulle had 17. Nahziah Carter and Dominic Green added nine and seven points, respectively.
Then on Thursday, in a 69-53 win at Utah, the Huskies got 17 from Crisp, 18 from Carter and 13 from forward Noah Dickerson.
“We’re growing and we’re getting better,” Hopkins said after the Utah win. “You start getting contributions from seven, eight, nine guys, it’s going to be a big thing going forward. … The things about really great teams is it’s going to be a different guy every night.”
Throughout the non-conference season, Hopkins stressed the importance of of a balanced offense. He was especially adamant that more players contribute consistently offensively aside from leading scorers Nowell and Dickerson.
It took some time, but the Huskies seem like they’ve finally hit their offensive stride as they complete their first Pac-12 road trip on Saturday at Colorado (7 p.m., ESPNU). Thybulle has been a rhythm since scoring 13 against UC Santa Barbara in early December. Green is always a threat to get hot from behind the arc, and Carter has become a reliable source of energy off the bench.
During the early part of UW’s schedule, Hopkins said he often wondered when the Huskies were going to have five players perform well in a single game. He also wondered what the offense would look like when they did.
Now he has the answers.
The Huskies had scored more than 80 points in their last two games before Thursday’s 69-point effort in Salt Lake City. In the 84-76 victory over Cal State Fullerton last week, six players reached double figures.
“Certain guys you run plays for, certain guys create offense by themselves, their energy. Certain guys just shoot the ball. … When you feel like you’re just connected and you’re happy with whoever is scoring,” Hopkins said.
“I said this at the beginning of the year. We have six, seven, maybe eight guys that could actually start for our team. Each one can have those games. To see that offensive balance is a great thing. When you have a confident team in every position … that’s how teams win.”
Forward Hameir Wright said coaches have been stressing selflessness on the offensive end. That’s led to the Huskies trusting each other more, both offensively and defensively. So when Dickerson didn’t play well against Washington State, UW was still able to score 85 points.
“It’s actually real fun seeing a lot of different guys put the ball in the basket,” Wright said. “I think it also shows that we have a lot more potential than we thought, that we have a lot of room to grow because we have a lot of different guys that can score the basketball from anywhere on the floor.”
That’s going to make it more difficult for teams to key in on any player — namely Dickerson — as the Huskies get deeper into their conference schedule. But when teams do focus on Dickerson, it allows other players to get open. When that happens, Green said UW has to take advantage.
“It helps everybody,” Green said. “It frees up shooters. Last game, we shot pretty well from 3. That’s one thing that is a disadvantage but it’s an advantage at the same time.”
Carter, whose 18 points Thursday were a career-high, is one of the players Hopkins pointed to as providing a boost to the Huskies’ offense.
“I’ve kind of gotten into a zone,” Carter said. “I’ve bought into what coaches are telling me to do. That and my own ability, of course, to just go out and make plays.”
Hopkins also said Jamal Bay his starting to make an impact, meaning his role will increase as the season moves forward. That’s good news for a UW team lacking depth.
And when the Huskies have more players contributing, Carter said, it not only helps the offense, it makes the games more fun.
“I just feel like we’re so excited for each other as far as when we see a basketball go in for another person or a steal,” he said. “It’s so much teamwork out there.”