Last night, the Washington Huskies were able to persevere over the Arizona State Sun Devils in a thrilling match on Montlake. Led by Noah Dickerson, the Huskies were able to overcome a chippy first half on their way to a 68-64 finish for the win.
Jaylen Nowell, Matisse Thybulle, and David Crisp really had a rough going offensively in the first half. The emphasis on getting the ball to Dickerson persisted as the team kept finding ways to feed him the ball. Dickerson finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, and also converted seven out of eight free throw attempts.
While the Sun Devils were ranked 25th in the nation heading into this matchup, they were only ranked 10th in the PAC-12 standings, struggling against intraconference opponents. Guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II weren’t able to establish consistency throughout the game, largely due to Husky forward Thybulle having the defensive game of his life, notching six steals and two blocks for the game. He has the fourth most steals in the entire country with 64, and during the postgame press conference, Coach Mike Hopkins heavily praised Thybulle’s efforts, as he was sick with “stomach stuff.”
The Sun Devils were able to sneak ahead with a 9-2 run to start the second half, but the Huskies kept up with the pace to hold onto the win. Jaylen Nowell finished with 15 points of his own.
The UW have now won their 16th game of the season and maintain a thin hold on third place in the PAC-12 standings. This team now has a chance at a March Madness bid. There are now just 9 games left for the Huskies this season, and finishing with 20 or more wins isn’t out of reach. With wins over Kansas, USC, and now ASU, the Huskies have a solid resume if they find themselves on the bubble for Selection Sunday.
While fans and the media might speculate on their own tourney hopes and dreams, Hopkins remains focused on today. His current game plan is to put the best team possible on the court every single day, no matter the opponent. When the game against the ninth ranked Arizona Wildcats was brought up, Hopkins smiled and iterated that he can’t wait to see how well Huskies will be able to hold their own and he’s evidently confident that Washington deserves that chance.
The Huskies face the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday at 7:30PM PST on the PAC-12 network. Led by NBA talents Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier, the Wildcats pose a huge test for Washington’s defense as both of these players average just under 20 points per game.
Boasting a 9-1 PAC-12 record, the Wildcats have shown weakness against the likes of Utah and Colorado, but this squad is coming off of a huge win over the Washington State Cougars on Wednesday.
Look for the Huskies to try and slow the game down like they did against the Sun Devils. If Nowell can knock down jumpers early and often, it’ll open the floor for Dickerson to get to work down low. On the other end, if the Huskies can keep the Wildcats’ scoring total under 72, that could just be enough to get by.
And what a great first year this has been for Coach Mike Hopkins. He’s been able to inspire defense in a Husky squad that lacked fire for the greater part of Lorenzo Romar’s final years in Seattle. In short, there’s no way the Huskies win tonight against Arizona State under the old regime.