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Win or Lose, UW is Always Looking to Build

Matisse Thybulle (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

 

Many will consider Washington’s 81-79 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga Wednesday in Spokane a good showing for the Huskies. And in most years it would compare favorably. Consider how UW lost to the Bulldogs by 27 the last two years and you can see why most see the loss as a reasonable one.

Not Washington. There’s no moral victories for this crew, and win or lose the message is always the same for them – it’s about the build.

Poise was the key word heading to Spokane, now it’s build as the Hoop Dawgs host cross-city rival Seattle University Sunday night at 6 pm at Alaska Airlines Arena.

In fact, build has been a key word since the summer.

(UW Head Coach Mike Hopkins) would have guys screaming it in practice,” senior guard Matisse Thybulle said ahead of the Seattle game. “What are we doing? WE’RE BUILDING! When you take that mentality, it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing or who we played. It’s just what we’re trying to get done every day, every game.”

Thybulle’s work on the offensive end was huge Wednesday night. In the constant search for a third scorer to complement Noah Dickerson and Jaylen Nowell, Thybulle has accounted for double-digit scoring in UW’s last two games. In Spokane, he had 18 points to go with four assists and two steals.

“I’m sure it helps,” he said of his production on both ends of the floor. “I’m sure it makes it easier for guys like Jaylen (Nowell) and Noah (Dickerson) to take some attention off of them. I’m just happy to provide any way I can. If one night it means I score, if another night it means I might have six steals – that’s what I want to do. I want to really get in there and impact the game.”

“Having a confident Matisse on both ends, we’re just a completely different team,” added Hopkins.

They’ll need everyone firing Sunday, as they face a Seattle University team (9-2) who has already beaten Washington State and Eastern Washington.

“They’ve got a lot of new pieces but (Jim Hayford) is a really good coach,” said Hopkins. “They run a system, they run an offense called ‘Aloha’. It’s a really good penetrate, kick, five, four-out, shoot threes. It’s a spread-it-out offense like in football. Air Raid-type. They’ve got a good record, they’ve won some good games and they move the ball and they shoot the ball. We’ve got to take that away. If we can do a good job with that then we should have a good opportunity to win.

“I think the big thing is, we watch a lot of games from the past year, watch the new guys…but systematically teams usually run what they run and defend the way they defend. We had really good moments last year and we had some really dark moments. We played them early in the year, so I think we’re covering better. But they’re a good team. You’ve got to take away that three line. You’ve got to make it difficult for them on shots. You’ve got to finish with rebounds. If we can finish with rebounds we’re at our best when we’re in transition. It’s the best time to get it to Noah, it’s the best time to take it to the basket, and it’s the best time to get open threes, and we’re shooting a high percentage of transition threes.”

And if they can beat the Redhawks, that’s just one more brick in the wall. And according to Hopkins, they can play better than they did at Gonzaga. They have another level to them. We’ll see if they can play to that level on Sunday.

“My first few years, we overlooked them and they came in here and punched us in the mouth and we had to stumble back and figure out how to finish the game out,” Thybulle said of UW’s yearly tilts with the Redhawks. “They are a good team. It’s nice to have Coach (Cameron) Dollar on our side now, but that doesn’t take away from how talented those guys are. It’s a game we really have to take seriously. Like any game, it can go either way, depending on what we bring to the table. It’s about us and what we’re willing to work for.”


Full Quotes


Mike Hopkins

Did they play their ‘A’ game against Gonzaga?

“I thought we played good. I didn’t think we played great. Still think there’s more out of us. I thought we moved the ball. The first 10 minutes of the game were kind of a shock offensively. We had seven turnovers in the first seven minutes and I think we only had one the rest of the way so that’s a huge positive. But we played together, we stuck together.

“I thought the biggest thing was, every time the team made a run, every time the Zags made a run we were able to stay with it. We didn’t let it get out of hand. They stuck together, they stuck to the game plan. I thought we played really good. I think we have another level we can play.”

On refs having issues with zone because they don’t see it all that often?

“I’m a coach, not a referee, so it’s a hard game. It’s a fast game. We’re all professionals, all trying to do our best. As coaches, if they call that you want them to call the other side. I thought they did a really good job. We didn’t lose because of that. We missed some opportunities that we could have had. The good thing is, I thought Gonzaga played good, but I don’t think they had an off-night. I think they had some long three-pointers. Hachimura had a high-level game. But it just showed potentially what we can do. Now our challenge is, can we be consistent in that effort, that togetherness, that poise as we move forward. That’s why we played this schedule. I felt you saw a different team than you saw against Auburn, in a raucous environment together. So that was the growth part.”

What did they do to try and take Noah out of his game?

“They really, really tried to get all over him. He was complaining about his knee not…wanting to come out and come back in. I don’t know if he was at 100 percent. But we got him the ball in certain areas, when they were defending him a certain way we were able to find the open man. When you got those open men you’ve got to be able to make open shots. We got to a point in the second half where you hit some and it changes the game when you make some shots. We adjusted and adapted pretty well.”

Is that something you’ll see more going forward?

“I hope so. Against Eastern Washington we moved the ball, we got open shots and we made ’em. It’s a make-and-miss game. When you play a team like Seattle U, one of their strengths is their three-point shooting. They shoot a lot of ’em. You don’t want to get in a shooting contest. It’s not like, you go over there, you go over there, first one to 20…they might beat us. What we have to do is be able to defend that. We’re going to get some open shots. You’ve got to be able to step up and make them. You’ve got to start to try and attack. I thought that’s what we did a really good job of getting to the foul line. We were 14-14. You just need to have that good balance.”

Enough ball movement?

“Ball movement was really good. Second half it was exceptional. Ball was touching everybody’s hands, making the extra pass, it’s what we preach in practice. When you get in a zone and you’re in the game and all you’re trying to do is win…there’s no agenda, there’s no intent, okay it’s my turn…it’s moving, it’s popping and we’re just trying to win. That’s when we’re at our best. We just have to keep focusing on that. It’s a different type of poise against Seattle. They’re really good. They made 12 threes against us last year. (Matej) Kavas had a big game, we have to be able to find him. Defensively, take away their three-point line as well as you can. Get into our transition. And then don’t just try and get a good shot, get a great shot. That’s what we preach every day.”

On Matisse’s offense…

“It’s great to see him scoring and it’s great to see him at a confident level like that. Because when he’s like that we’re a completely different team. We need him to be like that night-in and night-out. Taking the ball to the basket, making plays, getting in transition, hitting threes…he’s a heckuva ball player. Having a confident Matisse on both ends, we’re just a completely different team.”

On SU being the same as last year…

“They’ve got a lot of new pieces but he’s a really good coach. They run a system, they run an offense called ‘Aloha’. It’s a really good penetrate, kick, five, four-out, shoot threes. It’s a spread-it-out offense like in football. Air Raid-type. They’ve got a good record, they’ve won some good games and they move the ball and they shoot the ball. We’ve got to take that away. If we can do a good job with that then we should have a good opportunity to win.”

On SU beating WSU…

“I think the big thing is, we watch a lot of games from the past year, watch the new guys…but systematically teams usually run what they run and defend the way they defend. We had really good moments last year and we had some really dark moments. We played them early in the year, so I think we’re covering better. But they’re a good team. You’ve got to take away that three line. You’ve got to make it difficult for them on shots. You’ve got to finish with rebounds. If we can finish with rebounds we’re at our best when we’re in transition. It’s the best time to get it to Noah, it’s the best time to take it to the basket, and it’s the best time to get open threes, and we’re shooting a high percentage of transition threes.”

On playing better versus Gonzaga…

“I’ve heard people talk about playing to the level of your competition and you’re dealing with human nature, with kids. You’re in finals, you’re doing a lot of different things. Are they looking ahead? No, they’re focused on this game, but human nature says what? You don’t even mention it. But we’ve got to be able to play the way that we played Gonzaga every game. That’s being a professional. That’s understanding, that’s what we’re trying to teach these kids, that next level of standard is. You might not make every shot, but the level that you play is that way. Doesn’t matter who you play, because in this game anybody can beat you. There’s so much parity in college basketball. You can go across the country and see games. Teams can shoot, teams can play, teams have good coaches. You’ve got to respect your opponent. Every day that you go out you’ve got to go out and I know it’s the corny cliche but you’ve got to play like it’s your last game. That’s the opportunity that you have right then and there. Play hard, play smart, play together.”

You think there will ever be a Washington-based teams tournament some day?

“There’s so many great ideas. It’s almost like what they do in Philadelphia called the Big Five. Like Temple…they all play each other. That’s a good idea. This is such a great basketball city and so many great basketball programs, it would be great for the fans to see that. That would be a great idea.”

What’s the biggest hurdle?

“It would be more of an event coordinator coming up with an idea and say wouldn’t it be cool to have SU, UW, Gonzaga, Washington State, Eastern Washington…you could have the Division-1 colleges here and you could actually bring in Division-2 colleges and have an all-day deal like what we’re doing in Atlantic City. It would be a great thing for the community. A lot of great local talent. It’s a nice idea, sponsored by the Seattle Times.” (laughs)


Matisse Thybulle

Found something the past few games on the offensive end?

“I think I found my stride a little bit, yeah. I’d been struggling to find it early, but I think I definitely found it these last few games.”

What was it? How did you find it?

“I don’t know really. I’ve been working a lot before and after practice on trying to…one thing a lot of mentors have told me, and the greatest basketball players ever, say your confidence comes from the work you put in. I found myself early in the season lacking a little bit of confidence and I really needed to get back to what provides that confidence for me – and that’s putting in the work. I got back to that and now I’m starting to see results.

“It’s a great feeling, especially with the season the way I started it. To be able to turn it around a little bit really feels good.”

Gonzaga game, is it different?

“We approach every game the same way. We didn’t treat this Gonzaga game any different than the UCSB game. It was just another game. Guys took it seriously because of who they are and how we played against them in previous years. But it’s the same as any one of them.”

On coming back against Gonzaga…

“When you’re in a game like that, or any game for that matter, if you get down and you try and focus on the score and changing the score, things usually don’t work out in your favor. We went down 12 or so points and there’s no 12-point shot. So it came down to us bearing down and doing our work on defense and just trusting Coach Hop would make the right calls and hit shots on offense.”

Do you see the team being different when you’re contributing on offense?

“I’m sure it helps. I’m sure it makes it easier for guys like Jaylen and Noah to take some attention off of them. I’m just happy to provide any way I can. If one night it means I score, if another night it means I might have six steals – that’s what I want to do. I want to really get in there and impact the game.”

What was it about the Gonzaga game that brought out that team performance, and how do you do it more consistently?

“A huge thing that we tried to focus on and I’m real proud of our guys for doing is really being poised. That’s as hostile an environment as it gets and we were able to stay together through a lot of ups and downs and were able to play consistently throughout the whole thing. That’s something we’ve been working on all year and hopefully we can build off the last game because we did a really good job of that.”

Does this team play to the level of its competition? What do you think will happen Sunday?

“That’s one of the hardest things for any athlete is not to play to the level of your competition and this game is a huge opportunity for us to build off of what we did last game. And that’s the mentality that a lot of guys bring in because it’s so exciting to see us play to the level we expect to play each game last game, and we just want to build off that and continue to grow and be the team we visualize ourselves being.”

What’s Hop’s message been since the Gonzaga game?

“Just build. That’s been the message since the summer. He would have guys screaming it in practice. What are we doing? We’re building! When you take that mentality, it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing or who we played. It’s just what we’re trying to get done every day, every game.”

How significant a step was the Gonzaga game, then?

“It was great. It felt good to hit those shots and it feels good as a team to know what we’re capable of and that wasn’t even our best game. That wasn’t our perfect game. We can even build off of that.”

Remember much about the SU games?

“My first few years, we overlooked them and they came in here and punched us in the mouth and we had to stumble back and figure out how to finish the game out. They are a good team. It’s nice to have Coach Dollar on our side now, but that doesn’t take away from how talented those guys are. It’s a game we really have to take seriously. Like any game, it can go either way, depending on what we bring to the table. It’s about us and what we’re willing to work for.”

How well do you know their players?

“I played with some in high school, some since high school and I played against some for three years since I’ve been at U-Dub. For them, this is a great opportunity for them to play on a larger stage in the state and I think for us it’s another good opportunity to build on what we’ve been doing and continue to take everyone seriously and not overlook anyone. They are Seattle U, but they’re just as talented as any other team we’re going to play.”


Game Notes


Washington (6-3) vs. Seattle U (9-2)

UW returns to Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday, Dec. 9 to take on cross-town foe Seattle U at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks with Aaron Goldsmith and Don MacLean on the call. Additionally, fans can listen to Tony Castricone and Jason Hamilton on the Official Husky Radio Broadcast on 1000AM KOMO/97.7 FM. The Huskies and Redhawks are facing off for the 34th time in program history with UW owning a 29-4 record in those match-ups. Washington has won 13-straight over SU dating back to Nov. 27, 1978.

The Coach

Head Coach Mike Hopkins is in his second year at Washington, and second as a head coach after becoming the 19th head coach in UW history. After spending 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse, Hopkins oversaw teams that reached the NCAA Tournament 16 times including the 2003 National Championship, four Final Fours, five Elite Eights and 10 Sweet 16s along with four NIT berths. Syracuse never dipped below a 55.0 percent record while Hopkins was on staff. In his first year at UW, Hopkins earned the 2018 Pac-12 Coach of the Year Award while leading the Huskies to a 21-13 record ending in the second round of the NIT.

Quick Hitters

• Washington currently has 994 wins in Alaska Airlines Arena … it is the most wins by any Division I team at its current home arena … UW started playing at AAA on Dec. 27, 1927.

• At No. 1 Gonzaga, sophomore Jaylen Nowell recorded his third 20+ scoring effort of the season and 13th of his career with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field.

• Nowell has upped his assists average this season to 3.4 from 2.7 a year ago … additionally, he is averaging six assists over the last three outings.

• Over UW’s last three games, the Huskies have four averaging double figures in Nowell (17.0), Dickerson (14.0), Thybulle (13.0) and Green (11.3).

• The Huskies are one of 12 teams nationally to have two 1,000 point scorers on its current roster and is one of four to potentially have three this season as Matisse Thybulle is 13 points away from joining Noah Dickerson (1,316) and David Crisp (1,149).

• Senior Matisse Thybulle is averaging 2.2 blocks over the first nine games … that’s up from 1.4 as a junior, 0.7 as a sophomore and 0.9 as a freshman … his career total of 124 blocks is fifth all-time at UW.

• Thybulle is the only player in Division I averaging at least 2.2 blocks and 2.7 steals per game … his 2.7 steals per game also rank eighth nationally.

• Joining Thybulle in the block party is sophomore Hameir Wright who already has 18 this year in nine outings … as a freshman Wright knocked away 36 blocks in 33 games.

• The Huskies as a team are also ranked fourth in the NCAA in total blocks (59) and blocks per game (6.6) while Thybulle is ranked 34th nationally (2.2) and Wright is ranked 54th (2.0).

• Dickerson posted his sixth career 20/10 double-double against Texas A&M leading the team with 24 points and 17 rebounds … his 11 offensive rebounds were a career high and most by a Husky since Jon Brockman had 12 on Jan. 8, 2009 against Stanford.

• Nowell is shooting 57.3 percent from the field this season up from 45.1 a year ago … out of the 20 candidates for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year award, Nowell’s shooting percentage is the best by just over five percent.

• Nowell has shot over 50 percent from the field in 20 of his 43 career games (46.5 percent) … Nowell is 63-of-110 (57.3%) this season and for his career is at 47.5% (266-of-560).

• Nowell once again leads the Huskies in scoring as he has only scored below 14 points in one game this season … he’s averaging 18.9 ppg over the first nine games after leading the team with 16.0 ppg a year ago.

• Thybulle is the first player in Pac-12 history since 1992-93 with the career stat line of at least 100 blocks (124), 200 assists (216), 200 steals (229) and 300 rebounds (330), via SportsReference.

• Thybulle, UW’s career steals leader at 229, has now recorded at least one steal in 55-straight games.

• Additionally, Thybulle has posted five career games with 6 or more assists, which is the most by a player in UW history, Tony Wroten had three in his career which is second to Thybulle.

• With his 106 assists a year ago, Crisp became the 40th player in UW history to record 100 assists in a single season … he is 30 away from entering UW’s career top 10 list as he has 287 total assists.


 

 

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