Coming into this game, there was an expectation that this should be the Huskies’ softest match up on the young season. That’s exactly how it ended up playing out yesterday at Hec Ed, as the Dawgs (2-1) dominated Northern Arizona (1-4) on both ends of the floor.
Despite not topping 30 points last night, the Markelle Fultz show continued with a complete game including 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, shooting 6 for 9 from the field and 2-4 from behind the arc. There were solid offensive contributions from a number of Huskies, with five total players in double figures and 50 points scored in the paint as the Huskies’ big men got involved on the offensive side of the ball. Matisse Thybulle put up 15 points and Noah Dickerson put up 12, while freshmen guard Carlos Johnson contributed 11 with David Crisp adding on another 10. More on Carlos Johnson later.
However, while the Huskies managed to overwhelm the Lumberjacks on offense with a solid 51.3 field goal percentage and 7-19 from 3, the big take away from tonight was a Husky defense that held NAU to 30.8% shooting from the floor. As a team, the Dawgs finished with nine steals and five blocks, but played solid perimeter defense, something they were unable to do in their first two games. On top of that, a 46 to 33 rebounding differential in the Huskies favor, including 32 defensive rebounds, helped assure the Huskies didn’t concede too many second chance points.
NAU was able to keep it relatively close in the first half, but it was during the second half that the superior size and athleticism of the Huskies really shown through. At one point during a 23-0 run that stretched for nearly six minutes, it seemed as though the Lumberjacks wouldn’t top 34 points for the rest of the game. During the run, with 10 minutes to go in the game, Thybulle offered up a pretty pass to a driving Fultz, who missed the layup, but a Thybulle offensive board and ensuing jam put the Dawgs up by 30 points (64-34). On the following Lumberjacks possession, Thybulle picked Jaleni Neely’s pocket and ran the floor which ended in yet another monster jam:
PICK AND POP! Matisse Thybulle all by himself... steal and flush on the other end. https://t.co/L1uZCQ0x0o— UW Men's Basketball (@UW_MBB) November 21, 2016
As is expected in early season games against generally inferior opponents, the substantial lead in the second half lead to a number of young/new players receiving valuable minutes. The two guys I was keyed in on the most were Matthew Atewe and Carlos Johnson.
Like many of you, I was interested in seeing more of Atewe right off the bat this season, as the 6’ 9” 250 lbs forward from Toronto via the University of Auburn offers up an intriguing combo of size and athleticism. After a productive freshmen year at Auburn, which was followed up by an injury induced redshirt sophomore season, there was a hope before last season that he would be able to contribute right away after transferring. However, due to NCAA transfer rules he was forced to sit out last season and now has two years of remaining eligibility with the Huskies. The scouting report on Atewe is that he is a physical and rugged post player, who can help shore up the Huskies’ interior D and add quality depth to a rotation including Malik Dime, Sam Timmins and Noah Dickerson. After playing a total of six minutes in the first two games, Atewe received nine minutes yesterday. He played well paired up with Noah Dickerson defensively (who hasn’t impressed much so far this season), while his presence helped spark the Huskies’ big run in the second half after scoring on a quick cut and floater in the paint. Romar has clearly brought him along slowly entering this season, but moving forward and especially before Pac-12 play begins, I believe it will be important to get Atewe more minutes on the court. They’ll need the quality depth on the interior, especially when they begin facing teams with more mobile and skilled bigs such as Oregon, who could really give the Dawgs a tough time.
Meanwhile, Carlos Johnson played 15 minutes yesterday hitting on 5 for 5 from the field while going 1 for 2 from the line, paired with 3 rebounds and one turnover. Coming in, Johnson was labeled as a powerful, aggressive guard who is very active on both ends of the floor. That’s exactly what we saw from the 6’ 3” Freshman from Illinois, who seemed to be all over the place while in the game. His strength stands out first and foremost, which he used several times to muscle in for boards, while he proved to be quick and athletic while attacking the rim. Defensively, I don’t want to compare anyone to Venoy Overton (Johnson’s bigger and I’m sure a much better person)... but in terms of a defensive mentality that’s exactly what I saw from Johnson, as he played the junk yard dog roll of really getting after opposing ball handlers while being scrappy and flying around on any loose balls. Really excited to see more of this kid in the coming weeks.
Some other quick notes on the game:
- Noah Dickerson continues to look slow on the court
- Sam Timmins played only 15 minutes yesterday, but managed to make a roughly equal contribution as he did in his 25 minutes against Yale
- Last night was an improvement, but was far from free of sloppy ball handling and included several easily avoidable turnovers
- Devenir Duruisseau played eight minutes and seemed lost at points, especially on defense
- I love Dominic Green, but he had a poor showing from beyond the arc last night going 1 for 6... keep shootin’ kid! We need you!
- The Dawg’s managed to stay out of serious foul trouble last night, due in part to an undersized NAU team as well as more rotation off the bench
After last night’s game, I think it’s fair to say the Huskies have made progress since their opening loss to Yale. A solid game from the starters against an over matched Lumberjacks squad helped the bench gain more experience, which tends to pay off down the stretch. Hopefully, they’ll be able to do the same again tomorrow night against a 1-4 Long Beach State team that’s 0-4 on the road and hasn’t scored more than 77 points since putting up 95 in their season opening win against D II Cal State LA.