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Slow Start Dooms Huskies in 73-61 Loss to #13 Virginia Tech

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The Husky offense couldn’t get things going in an 18 point 1st half deficit which prevented a 2nd half comeback attempt

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the Huskies faced a 30+ point halftime deficit against Virginia Tech in a humiliating blowout loss. A year later? Not much changed at least in the 1st half. Washington tried to make a comeback in the 2nd half but were never able to get any closer than 7 points and lost by a score of 73-61 to fall to 7-4 on the season.

In its 2 biggest games of the year so far (at Auburn and at Gonzaga) the team faced early deficits and that was the case again tonight. The Huskies tried getting the ball in low to Dickerson early but they weren’t able to find much success outside of a single free throw by Noah and trailed 7-1 at the under 16 timeout.

It looked like Washington might have weathered the storm as Matisse hit a 3-pointer to bring it within 12-8. After a couple of baskets by Virginia Tech, Naz Carter had the highlight of the night with a phenomenal putback dunk coming out of nowhere to bring it to within 16-10. And that’s about where the Huskies decided they were content never scoring the ball again.

Virginia Tech stifled every attempt by the Huskies to get the ball inside and Dominic Green missed a pair of wide open corner 3’s which are normally nearly automatic for him. Meanwhile on the other end Virginia Tech used superior ball movement and effective pump fakes to manipulate the UW zone and find open looks. And unlike the Huskies they actually made those attempts. 6 and a half minutes later the Huskies trailed 35-14 and were effectively out of the game.

Jaylen finally hit a 3, Virginia Tech missed a few shots they had been making, and Nowell picked up his dribble leading to a fadeaway David Crisp air ball 3 going into the half at 39-21 Virginia Tech. The Huskies shot just 27.6% from the field in the 1st half including 2 of 11 from deep while Virginia Tech made 45% of their attempts. Naz Carter had 8 points, Jaylen Nowell 5 and no one else more than 3.

Whatever halftime speech Hop gave it had the effect of igniting the Husky offense and in particular their 3-point shooting. Washington made their first 5 shots from the floor in the 2nd half including 4 from beyond the arc as the flood gates opened up. But the Huskies remained sloppy with 5 turnovers in that time which allowed them to only cut the lead to within 13 during the first 4 minutes of the half.

The Huskies continued to make shots and played Virginia Tech to a draw over the next 4 minutes but they forced a 4th foul on Tech’s only rim protecting big man, Kerry Blackshear. With him out the Huskies stayed aggressive and Noah Dickerson passed out of a double team to a cutting Jaylen Nowell to bring it to just 53-46 with 9 minutes left. However, Virginia Tech answered right back with an and-1 taking it inside against Dickerson that stretched the lead back to double digits. Noah was then called for an over the back going for an offensive rebound and picked up his 4th leading to the under 8 timeout.

Washington just couldn’t get enough stops to cut back into the lead in a meaningful way. Matisse Thybulle managed a 4-point play to bring it within 9 but Virginia Tech just answered with a 3 of their own on the other end and that was the last time the game was within single digits. After another fadeaway 3 by Thybulle looked like it might give Washington a little momentum for a final push, Timmins was called for a really chippy “hook” on the scrum for a rebound which is a Flagrant 1 and gave Virginia Tech 2 foul shots and the ball to seal it. David Crisp got an uncontested layup with 12 seconds left and the Hokies dribbled it out as Washington lost 71-59.

Matisse Thybulle led the Huskies with 16 points including 13 in the 2nd half. UW will return home next Friday night against Sacramento State to finish their 1st of 2 final non-conference games.

Double Bonus Observations

  • I’ll be honest. I missed seeing the first 6 minutes of this game. It was scheduled to be on ESPNU but the timing wasn’t even close to correct with the D2 football championship game which had 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter at tipoff. So they moved it to ESPN News. As someone planning on streaming it on ESPN Watch that didn’t bother me. Except ESPN claimed the game hadn’t started when it had and didn’t make the streaming option available. Meanwhile, the reddit streams were all pointed to ESPNU and so weren’t showing the game either. After some searching I finally found an ESPN News live stream. ESPN Watch wasn’t available until the D2 game ended some 45 minutes after tip. Oh, and on the little bulletin alerting people the game was on ESPN News they spelled it “Viriginia”. F*** you ESPN. We would’ve won if only I’d gotten to watch those first 6 minutes...
  • Jaylen Nowell played perhaps his worst all-around game as a Husky. On offense the Hokies packed the paint every time he touched the ball and repeatedly he pulled up and missed contested midrange shots or drove the ball to disastrous results. Granted, he often will make those contested midrange shots but tonight he wasn’t. Perhaps no play encapsulated Nowell’s night then when he was called for a charge while completely boxed in with a player between him and the basket plus 2 on either side of him. He also was atrocious on the defensive end where he gave up at least 7 uncontested corner 3-pointers. Not a good night for Jaylen. He finished with 10 points on 4 of 13 shooting with 0 assists and 3 turnovers.
  • Noah Dickerson also struggled greatly against a swarming Virginia Tech defense that did a good job of denying him the ball in advantageous positions. Noah was ok in the 2nd half passing the ball when doubled but he just wasn’t able to get the ball in the basket. He finished with just 1 made field goal for 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers plus he fouled out. Unsurprisingly based on the above, Nowell and Dickerson finished tied with a team worst -15 plus/minus.
  • Matisse Thybulle’s shooting slump may be over as he was the primary Husky offense in the 2nd half when they were attempting their comeback. Matisse finished 5/9 from three-point range and had 16 points to lead the way. He was again stellar on defense with 4 steals.
  • Hameir Wright saw a season low 7 minutes as he was ineffective on offense including an airballed 3 and a step slow on defense. Sam Timmins ended up playing 15 minutes and he was his typical mixed bag (but mostly negative). The two combined for 0 points but Timmins had a pair of assists and a pair of blocks.
  • Credit to Naz Carter for being the lone shining beacon in the 1st half and perhaps the most consistent player in this game for UW with 11 points on 5/8 shooting and 9 rebounds. He seemed like the only player aware that VT didn’t have a rim protector on the court and was able to drive inside to make baskets or get fouled. He also had a nice assist on a drive and kick for a 3.
  • David Crisp had a typical David Crisp game. 12 points on 12 shots with 5 assists, 3 turnovers, and solid defense. Rinse and repeat.
  • The Huskies are officially in panic mode as far as their postseason dreams go. Given the state of the current Pac-12 the road trip at the Arizona schools is basically the only opportunity for wins left on the schedule that will be considered impressive by the national media. If Arizona State were to win the conference and the Pac-12 tournament it wouldn’t surprise me if the conference were a single bid league this season. I’m not going to say the regular season no longer matters because UW’s realistically still on the bubble but it’s likely going to take at least a 13-5 record in conference to get an at large berth. The Huskies put themselves in a position to succeed with their schedule. If they had found a way to pull out narrow losses against Minnesota and Gonzaga then they’d be solidly in the tournament and would just need to win the games they’re supposed to the rest of the way. But they came up short in all of those games and it might be Pac-12 tourney or bust.

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