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Familiar formula helps UW MBB hold off Montana

Defense, free throws and a little luck help Washington avoid an upset.

NCAA Basketball: Montana at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies notched their 10th win of the season on Friday night in a 66-63 victory over the University of Montana Grizzlies. In so doing, UW surpassed its win total from a season ago and demonstrated that the rebuild on Montlake is fully underway.

This game, however, was not for the faint of heart.

The Huskies struggled offensively all night long against the 7-5 Grizzlies of the Big Sky Conference. This shouldn’t be too surprising given the fact that stretches of offensive ineptitude has been a consistent theme for UW this season.

Fortunately, the Huskies had their defensive game tuned up just as they did a few nights ago against Bethune-Cookman (who just took a 28 point beat down to WSU, incidentally). The star of the show was forward Hameir Wright in what was his best performance as a Husky. Wright notched 11 points on 3-5 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four blocked shots.

Still, it isn’t often that a college basketball team can go for nearly eight minutes in scoring just a single field goal but still win a game. The Huskies did just that on Friday night.

Nevertheless, the Dawgs continue to find ways to win close games albeit against inferior competition. They have clearly shown a knack for being able to execute on strategies of slowing down basketball games, generating free throw attempts and getting defensive stops when necessary. This has been a theme that has emerged in several close games this season including in recent wins over Kansas and Loyola-Marymount.

The Huskies will celebrate their 10th win and then the holidays before shifting their attention their next opponent. The road in UW’s rebuild turns eminently more difficult with the start of PAC 12 conference play and a road trip to USC on December 29th.

Game Dots

  • First, apologies for this instant reaction not being so instant. Even bloggers are allowed to make merry with their families on the kickoff of Christmas weekend. Too many egg nog mudslides impeded my ability to blog effectively last night.
  • Mike Hopkins appears to be comfortable going into conference play with a primary rotation of just seven players. Only Hameir Wright and Naz Carter saw minutes off of the UW bench. Assuming player health is not an issue, this narrowing of the rotation should spell out in clear terms the roles that other experienced players on the roster are expected to play going forward. That both Dominic Green and Carlos Johnson seem to have no role whatsoever might be the most surprising observation to fans.
  • The Huskies were embassingly and inexplicably dominated by Montana on the glass. The Grizzlies outrebounded UW 41-26 driven entirely by a 20-6 advantage that they held on offensive end.
  • Washington got a scare in the second half when Jaylen Nowell suffered what looked like a serious ankle injury. The UW star was able to shake it off and come back into the game at the five minute mark, but his effectiveness was hampered. Nevertheless, Nowell still paced UW with 16 shot attempts converting six of them.
  • UW attempted just nine three point attempts on the night. That is the fewest of the season since the Huskies attempted eleven in their season opener against Belmont. The three pointer hasn’t been a big part of UW’s offense all season. Their 19.7 attempts per game is just 258th in the nation and their three point rate is 265th. Interestingly, UW’s team last year was attempting just 20.6 attempts at the same time a year ago.
  • Free throws, on the other hand, are a different story. UW outshot Montana 21-6 from the charity stripe and made 17 of them. What is interesting about the Huskies is that it wasn’t just one player dominating the free throws. Each of the starters had between three and five attempts except for Jaylen Nowell who, inexplicably, had just one attempt.
  • UW’s 24 free throw attempts per 100 possessions is 31st in the nation after last night. At this time a year ago, they were at 17. It remains to be seen if this kind of advantage can be maintained against tougher competition in conference, but it i has been a major part of UW’s success to date. Interestingly enough, Arizona State - the top rated team in the PAC - leads the nation in free throw attempts per 100 possessions with 28.5.
  • UW was a bit lucky on their free throw advantage in that their personal foul rate was very close to that of Montana’s. UW generated their 21 free throws off of 19 Montana personal fouls while the Grizzlies only got 6 attempts off of 14 UW fouls.