You couldn’t blame the Huskies if they got caught looking ahead to a tilt with in-state rival and #1 team in the country Gonzaga. And it seemed like that might have been the case on Sunday night as Washington held on in a game that was in doubt until the final seconds by a final of 67-63 against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
The Huskies actually got off to a fantastic start and it looked like maybe UW would blow the Gauchos out of the water. Crisp made a floater on the first possession and after a pair of kicked balls that reset the shot clock to 20, the Dawgs essentially forced a 50 second shot clock violation. Matisse Thybulle came up with a pair of early steals and Washington got out to a quick 10-0 lead after just 3 minutes.
But then the offensive stagnation kicked in as turnovers and poor shooting reared their ugly head yet again. UCSB continued to drive the ball and didn’t find a ton of success getting into the paint but it was good enough to slowly chip away at the lead. Washington’s bigs were beat down the floor several times although they got lucky that it didn’t hurt them after UCSB traveled before a dunk then missed a bunny another time down the court. After another 4 minutes the UW lead had been cut down to 4 at 11-7 with only a Noah Dickerson free throw for the Huskies on offense.
Washington had a big break go against them when David Crisp missed a layup in transition and Matisse Thybulle’s putback dunk didn’t go down and he was assessed for a foul for holding on the rim despite the fact there were 2 UCSB players underneath him and he barely held on. The announcing crew thought that was his 3rd with 6:42 to go but it was a class B technical and so remained only his 2nd personal foul. It took a Nowell midrange jumper shortly thereafter to end Washington’s scoreless streak at nearly 6 minutes and yet the Huskies still led 19-14 despite the terrible offense.
UCSB continued to hang around and hit the first 3-pointer in 16 tries combined between the two teams on the next possession to bring the Gauchos within 2 points at 19-17. Washington won the final 3 minutes despite Carter being unable to convert a layup at the buzzer and held a 26-21 lead at halftime.
Washington missed their first couple 3’s coming out of the half but Nowell finally broke the seal and was soon followed by a Dominic Green corner 3. That pushed the lead to 34-25 and once again it seemed that UW would break it open. But yet again UCSB brought it back as they also caught fire and made back to back 3-pointers in a 20 second span to tie the game at 36. The Gauchos made 6/9 and 3/4 from deep to start the 2nd half.
UW pulled ahead 45-37 from there before UCSB went on their own 8-0 run and tied it back at 45 and then eventually gained a 2-point lead. However, the game of runs continued as a 9-0 Washington streak was sparked by a few Matisse Thybulle steals and his 3rd 3-pointer of the contest and the Huskies seized momentum. That momentum was lost with 4:15 to go when Thybulle was called on a 50/50 rebound for going over the back and fouled out of the game.
Washington repeatedly got it inside and kept going to the free throw line but Ar’mond Davis and Jaquori McLaughlin made tough shot after tough shot to stay within 2 into the final minute. But despite Noah Dickerson and Jaylen Nowell combining to miss 3 FTs in the last 45 seconds the Gauchos never got off a game-tying shot and Washington held on for the 67-63 victory.
Dickerson led the Huskies with 22 points and 8 rebounds while Matisse Thybulle had a season high 13 points to go along with 6 steals despite fouling out.
Washington improves to 6-2 and now goes to Spokane to take on #1 Gonzaga on Wednesday night for what will likely be their most difficult game of the season.
Double Bonus Thoughts
- Matisse Thybulle was spectacular as always on defense but broke out on the offensive end with 3 3-pointers. He’s now 5/11 from deep in the last 2 games following his dreadful 2/19 start and so hopefully he can go back to being his career 37%+ shooter the rest of the way. I only agreed with 3 of his 5 fouls.
- Sam Timmins continued his poor play and at this point in the only 2 minutes he saw on the court and he really seems to have regressed back beyond how raw he was in year 1. At this point I think part of it is mental but he may be out of the rotation for good unless he gives Hop a reason to play him.
- Hameir Wright has been brutal on offense so far this year but after hitting less than 50% from the free throw line last year he is vastly improved. All 3 of his points came at the FT line and if he can keep up anything close to his 11/14 start it will offset his struggles scoring from everywhere else and help Hop keep his valuable defense on the court.
- The shooting improved in the 2nd half but the Huskies still finished 5/21 (24%) from deep. If Washington can even get to 33% on a consistent basis then they can do enough inside to put teams away. But when they can’t reach that marker it will continue to be a slog.
- This game was almost a mirror of Minnesota except for the final minute. Washington held UCSB to just 21 points in the first half before giving up 45 in the 2nd half. I don’t think every opponent is going to make halftime adjustments and respond that way after the break but this is 2 out of 8 opponents to do it so far.
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