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Huskies Escape Saint Martin's 91-87 in Season Opening Exhibition Win

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This year’s team looked a lot like last year’s team in game 1

NCAA Basketball: Washington at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies gave us our 1st look at the men's basketball team under Coach Mike Hopkins in a 91-87 victory over D-II Saint Martin's. But it was not pretty. The Saints gave the Dawgs all they could handle as UW required a late rally to pull off the win.

The Saints seemingly couldn’t miss and were shooting over 55% from deep for most of the night. They used the shooting to take an early 21-13 lead over the Huskies. UW fought back and finally took the lead at 30-29 on a Carlos Johnson free throw before stretching it out to 46-40 at halftime.

But Saint Martin's once again caught fire and held a 73-66 lead with 8 minutes to go. The Huskies finally strung together some baskets and stops to go up 86-82 with a minute left. Jaylen Nowell iced the game up 2 with 40 seconds left as they let him dribble on a clear out, break his defender's ankles, and nail a floater to go up 4 with 10 seconds left.

Noah Dickerson led UW scorers with 21 points and 10 rebounds, David Crisp had 18 points and 4 assists, while Matisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell each contributed 14 points.

Key Observations

The Rotation

The Huskies chose to go with a smaller starting lineup than we saw last year with: PG David Crisp, SG Jaylen Nowell, SF Matisse Thybulle, PF Dominic Green, and C Noah Dickerson. The lineup has better spacing than having Dickerson and Sam Timmins playing together and it didn’t have to worry about getting bullied by Saint Martin’s smaller team.

Hameir Wright, Nahz Carter, and Timmins were the first subs off the bench and Carlos Johnson didn’t get in the game until late in the 1st half. However, Johnson played most of the 2nd half and ended the game with 22 minutes. Despite the talk of Michael Carter III playing well at point guard, he did not make an appearance. It’s possible that he may have had an injury or something else that kept him out but it looks like concerns over his pedigree meaning he was unprepared for a role right out of the gate may have been correct.

Crisp and Thybulle led the team with 36 minutes, Dickerson was next with 29, then the wings Nowell (24) Green (23) and Johnson (22), followed by the freshmen Carter (16) and Wright (11), and finally Sam Timmins with just 4.

About that 3-Point Defense...

Last year opponents shot 39.9% from beyond the arc against the Huskies. That mark was 343rd out of 351 Division 1 teams. The thought was that just through sheer luck the Huskies would improve in that category. It’s a sample size of one exhibition game but that doesn’t immediately appear to be the case.

The Saints shot 18 of 34 for 53% from 3-point range including 10 of 17 in the 2nd half. Luke Chavez who led the Saints with 32 points and EJ Boyce who had 22 were a combined 13/22 from 3-point range for 59%. They seemingly couldn’t miss.

The Huskies started the game in zone but quickly got shot out of it. They also struggled when the Saints got the ball at the top of the key particularly when Timmins was in the game. Whenever he tried to close out the Saints snuck in behind, got a bounce pass, and could either get a layup or pass to a corner if the wing defender cheated in. There will be games better suited for Timmins but he looks to still have a long ways to go anchoring a zone effectively.

In the 1st half it felt like the Huskies did a reasonable job contesting shots. Chavez and Boyce would stand 5 to 6 feet behind the 3-point line and still just knock down shots. The problem came in the 2nd half once it was clear who the shooters were and that they were the only threat. The Saints essentially gave up trying to score inside and ran a weave behind the 3-point line until someone lost track of 1 of the 2 stars and they got enough space to launch and nail a three. Multiple times one of them sat in the corner and waited for Carlos Johnson or Dominic Green or Hameir Wright to drift away 10-15 seconds into the play and then sink the corner shot. They absolutely have to do a better job identifying the shooters and sticking on them no matter what in man-to-man defense.

Offensive Execution

This game would have looked different if Saint Martin’s didn’t hold a +33 margin in 3-pointers but it also would’ve looked different if UW had shot even 75% on looks directly at the basket. The Huskies missed a number of layups and putbacks both in transition and in the halfcourt that cost them 10-12 points. Multiple times Noah Dickerson got fouled but couldn’t get the and-1 to go and left an extra point or two behind. That won’t fly against superior competition.

The concerns over the lack of a point guard showed up tonight and will continue to do so throughout the season. The team did not show a dynamic offense and way too few of the looks came through ball movement. The most common offense was to pass it along the perimeter until someone drove to the hoop or launched a jumper without really having a lane. The Huskies had an assist on only 9 of their 27 baskets as opposed to 17 of 28 for Saint Martin’s. The offense really struggled to get going until the end of the 1st half once the Dawgs got into the double bonus and pressed their size/athleticism advantage to get to the line. The Huskies were 30-39 (76.9%) from the charity stripe as opposed to 13-21 (61.8%) for the Saints.

Probably 10+ times the Huskies tried to get Dickerson the ball on the block. The Saints consistently fronted him and had a double team ready to help when Crisp tried to lob it over the top. Dickerson usually just tried to bulldoze right through the double or triple team and it wasn’t until late in the 2nd half that he realized that he could get a layup if he waited until the defenders got caught in the air. But that was when Dickerson caught it.

The entry passes into waiting double teams resulted in multiple turnovers and would’ve turned into several more against a team with D-I athletes. If other opponents play UW similarly (and they should) Dickerson needs to do a better job passing out of it or the Huskies need to shoot better so they can’t cheat an extra guy in the paint. The Dawgs were 7 of 16 (43.8%) from beyond the arc but it sure felt worse than that during the game. Crisp went scoreless in the 2nd half until a 3-pointer with a few minutes to go to tie the game at 82.

This was an ugly start to the Hopkins era but at least the team came out of it with a W. They’ve got 8 days to regroup and get ready for the regular season in a home game on Friday 11/10 against Belmont at 7p.

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