Year 2 of the Mike Hopkins era at the University of Washington started off on a positive note Tuesday night as the Washington Men’s Basketball team fought their way to a 73 to 55 win over Western Kentucky on Tuesday night.
The offensively challenged Huskies struggled to separate from the Hilltoppers for most of the night. Jaylen Nowell, as expected, represented most of the UW offense accounting for 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting. At one point, Nowell was 6 of 7 before suffering a bit of a cold spell.
The Huskies, ranked #25 in the AP poll to open the season, featured Matisse Thybulle in what was really a defense focused contest. The reigning PAC 12 DPOY recorded 6 rebounds, 6 blocks and a steal in what was a dominating defensive performance. PG David Crisp, often a target of Husky fan ire during his junior year, had an effective game. He, Nowell and PF Noah Dickerson combined for 48 of UW’s total 73 points on the night.
Husky fans looking for a significant improvement in offensive performance from last season might be a little disappointed as young players like Naz Carter and Hameir Wright had little impact on the final score. However, it is equally as encouraging to see the score prevention that UW was able to manufacture.
Western Kentucky presented a stout opening night challenge for the Huskies. Guard Taveion Hollingsworth led the Hilltoppers with 14 points and 2 assists on the night. True freshman center Charles Bassey, one of the youngest players in all of CBB, was a bit of a revelation with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Under head coach Rick Stansbury, WKU won 27 games and was an NIT semi-finalist last season. The Hilltoppers lost their two stars from last season in Darius Thompson and Justin Johnson. Part of the plan to replace those two involved Auburn transfer Desean Murray. Murray had previously been suspended for a violation of team rules and did not make the trip. Another player, Josh Anderson, was suspended for an exhibition game but traveled with the team and came off the bench. He played 13 minutes but did not convert a FG.
Up next for Washington is a tough road trip to Auburn to take on the #11 Tigers.
- Matisse Thybulle started his 100th game as a Husky tonight. The senior, who incidentally racked up 6 blocks on the night, is already the UW all time record holder for career steels and is less than 100 steals away from claiming the PAC 12 title from current record holder Gary Payton.
- It was announced prior to the game that UW big man Nate Roberts would redshirt this season. The announcement isn’t a huge surprise given how raw the analysts perceived Roberts to be. However, there is some obvious concern that the Dawgs, who effectively have just an eight-man rotation are already writing off a possible contributor
- The Dawgs really struggled with three point shooting going just 5 for 25 on the night. Senior PG David Crisp led the team with two of six shooting.
- As expected, the Husky rotation was limited to the starting five with three rotational players in Dominic Green, Naz Carter and Hameir Wright. As a unit, they generated 12 points and 9 rebounds (not bad all things considered). Bryan Penn-Johnson earned a few minutes on the floor indicating that Hopkins expects him to be to a possible mop-up player in the rotation this season.
- There was some concern that UW F Noah Dickerson was hurt coming into the night. If that was the case, it was not obvious. Dickerson played 23 minutes registering 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks. He was limited early in the game with foul trouble but came back strong in the second.
- Current Seattle Seahawk and former WKU Hilltoper basketball player George Fant was spotted (hard to miss him) in the crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena.