I love it when a plan comes together.
Hannibal Smith of “The A-Team” frame famously coined that phrase and one would say that Coach Mike Hopkins brought a perfect game plan to the Sprint Center on Tuesday night.
The Washington Huskies defeated the second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 74-65, in Kansas City in one of the biggest wins for the Husky program ever. It goes without saying that it was a defining moment in the short stint for Coach Mike Hopkins.
Despite it not being Phog Allen Fieldhouse, it was a de facto home game for Bill Self’s squad.
The game did not start off so well for the Dawgs as they came out misfiring on most of their shots and were down 10-5 at the first TV timeout.
There seemed to be a mandate that the Dawgs would not allow Kansas to beat them via the 3. The Huskies extended the zone to contest all 3-point shots and it worked. Perhaps the Jayhawks’ recent victory over Syracuse and thoughts of the Virginia Tech barrage at MSG last month hung over the staff as it prepared for this tough matchup.
Of course, the #2 ranked team in the nation adjusted by passing to the middle of the zone and getting easy open shots and or dump downs for dunks. But a funny thing happened mid-way through the first half. Those easy bunnies didn’t go down and the Huskies caught up and eventually took the lead after being down early.
The only issue was that the Huskies couldn’t put in the ball in the hoop and create a buffer between themselves and the Jayhawks. So, despite controlling tempo and negating the 3-point shot, the Huskies were having trouble on their end converting. The Dawgs were only up 2 on Bill Self’s team.
Some notable stats at the half with the Huskies up 36-34:
Focusing on defending the Kansas 3 caused the Jayhawks to make just two 3-point field goals in the 1 st half.
As a result, Kansas had 22 points in the paint compared to Washington’s 18 points.
Still, Coach Hopkins game plan to control tempo worked through the use of the zone. Kansas averaged 92 points going into this game and were held to just 34 at half.
Noah Dickerson continuing to be a double double machine. He had 10 rebounds at the half with 8 points.
Hameir Wright saw some significant time during the first half and looked pretty good.
The second half started well for UW as they hit two 3s on their first two possessions. Lagerald Vick was allowed to make 2 easy hoops again and had 18 points before the 16-minute mark.
But, Vick seemed uncomfortable and uneasy when he had the ball in between the foul line and the hoop and even though he could have scored 40 in this game (he actually finished with 28 on 12 of 23 shooting), he did not take advantage of his opportunities. As Fran Fraschilla noted, it seemed like he had the yips as he passed the ball out despite receiving the ball wide open below the free throw line.
The Jayhawks were able to cut the lead to 53-52 on an Udoka Azubuike dunk which precipitated a Coach Hopkins timeout. But coming out of the break, the Dawgs went on a 12-2 run capped off by a Noah Dickerson jam off a fine drive and dish by David Crisp.
The zone frustrated the Jayhawks all night long. Devonte Graham only had 3 points tonight. The past two games he averaged 35 points and in his game against the Syracuse zone he made 7 3’s. Tonight, he was 0-2 from 3-point range. Overall not a good night for Graham as his last game he went 10-10 from the free throw line but tonight he missed his only two free throws of the game, both technical fouls.
The Huskies actually pulled away from the Jayhawks and led by as many as 14 points.
Kansas went to an all-guard lineup toward the end in order to speed up the game and was able to hit 3 more 3s to bring their total up to 5 for the game. But, the plan had worked by that point. The Huskies suffocated the number 2 team in America.
I was thoroughly impressed with the precise game plan from Coach Hopkins. They allowed just one player (Lagerald Vick) to score the points for Kansas and effectively shut down everyone else. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham had just 3 points and the only other scorer in double figures was Azubuike with 10.
David Crisp showed great maturity in this game. Ok, let’s throw out the tech at the end but he ran the offense. He drove, drew and dished without being out of control. He looked like a floor general out there and looked to calm the team when Kansas made runs. Crisp seemed to excel at working the double screens at the top of the key and reading the defense from there to see where the action was and whether to drive or pass. Probably the best overall game from Crisp while at Washington.
A great win all-around. The zone showed its flexibility in focusing on shutting down one part of an offensive strength while maintaining the other parts of the defense. Truthfully, it looked to easy for Kansas to get into the middle of the zone and it appeared that they would have their way with the Huskies’ zone the whole game. But that didn’t happen as we are starting to see guys like Matisse Thybulle and Hameir Wright using their length to disrupt passes and shots. In summary, the Huskies executed when it mattered and withstood a run by a team that many believe will be in The Final Four.
The Huskies move to 7-2 this season with a BIG win on its resume.