USC came into Seattle on Wednesday as the second hottest team in the conference. The biggest blemish on their resume was the lack of a true road win. They will have to wait a little longer to fill that gap after the Huskies led wire-to-wire on the way to a 75-62 win over one of their top Pac-12 challengers. USC shot poorly early and scored 15 points fewer than their season average. UW overcame a mediocre shooting night and a high turnover total with a heavy dose of Noah Dickerson on the inside and timely playmaking from Jaylen Nowell.
Matisse Thybulle had his fingerprints all over the game, particularly at the defensive end. He disrupted numerous USC offensive possessions and frequently kick-started fast breaks. The box score shows a remarkable 7 steals and 2 blocks to go with 17 points. The USC players would probably attest that he unsettled even more possessions than that. His effort at the defensive end helped offset cold shooting for much of the night.
It was clear from the start that UW recognized the threat posed by USC big man Nick Rakocevic. The Huskies opted to post up Dickerson on nearly every possession at the start of the game to leverage his ability to draw fouls. Instead, the post-ups paid off with kick-outs to open threes by Nowell and David Crisp. Ironically, Rakocevic picked up an early foul on one such play when he fouled Thybulle on a three. The hot start staked the Dawgs to a 15-4 lead.
Dominic Green replaced Hameir Wright at the under-16 timeout, and the Trojans started to find more room inside against the smaller lineup. Luckily for the Huskies, a wild Naz Carter drive resulted in Rakocevic’s second foul. With Rakocevic out of the game, USC leaned on Bennie Boatwright, who helped cut the lead to 15-13. As USC coach Andy Enfield got into his bench midway through the first half, USC featured the Seattle prep trio of Kevin Porter Jr., J’Raan Brooks, and Shaqquan Aaron sharing the court.
Both team suffered cold streaks over the following minutes until Thybulle stole the ball and emphatically dunked to blow the roof off Hec Ed. Down eight with about six minutes to go in the half, Enfield gambled and subbed Rakocevic back in with two fouls. His presence did little to help: Thybulle quickly dribbled by his man and dunked again and Dickerson rejected the bigger Rakocevic at the rim on the defensive end. Carter then ended a streak of eight consecutive missed threes by the Dawgs to force a Trojan timeout at 31-18.
USC continued to struggle as Thybulle rejected a Kevin Porter jumper and Dickerson drew Porter’s second foul at the other end. Boatwright finally made USC’s first three-pointer of the game shortly before halftime and added a midrange jumper to bring his team within eleven at the break.
The Trojans took the lid off the rim to start the second half. Enfield left Rakocevic in the game in spite of his third foul two minutes into the half. He both delivered and received nice passes and a three-point play pulled USC within three. Dickerson continued to plug away inside, rebounding and finishing efficiently, which helped UW push the lead bag to double figures.
Kevin Porter showed signs of life in the second half. He cut backdoor for an easy dunk. Shortly after, he hit a contested three from the right wing to prevent UW from extending the lead. Porter’s other side was also on display, though, when he demonstrably complained to his teammates during a live ball when he didn’t get the pass he wanted. Points remained hard to come by, but Boatwright’s length and sweet shooting kept the game close.
The Huskies made a pair of big threes with under eight minutes to play. A gorgeous Nowell pass gave Dominic Green all day to measure up an attempt from the corner. On the next possession, a Wright offensive rebound led to a clean look for Nowell that he splashed to put the Huskies back up by 11. Dickerson carried the team for the next few minutes with powerful rebounds and crafty post moves.
With about two minutes to go, Crisp put a bow on the game on a bizarre play. He drove to the basket and absorbed a foul while he attempted a wild layup. Rakocevic needlessly slapped the backboard on a shot that had no chance to go in, which gave UW two points for goaltending and a free throw to go with it. The points put the Dawgs up by 15 with two minutes to go. Thybulle punctuated it by picking Porter’s pocket on the next possession.
Washington got a big win out of the way. Not only does every win in this hot streak improve their tournament odds, this win over USC puts them three games clear of the Trojans in the conference standings. The LA schools are two of the most talented in the conference, so getting a win to start the week maintains positive momentum for UCLA’s upcoming visit to Seattle.
- Color commentator Steve Lavin repeatedly called Nowell the best guard in the country. It was a tough billing to live up to and Nowell spent most of the first 30 minutes facilitating for others. Late in the game, Nowell asserted himself more and finished with a solid 12 points on eight shots, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
- The late tip and abnormal Wednesday game night did not deter the Dawg Pack. They were loud from the beginning and seemed to help establish momentum early.
- For all the great work Thybulle did defensively, Dickerson was as good offensively. He put up an ultra-efficient 21 points on 10 shots with the full array of flips, spins, pumps, and scoops. He also overcame a size disadvantage to lead all players with 13 rebounds.
- While Kevin Porter showed both why he was considered a top recruit and a potential headache, J’Raan Brooks didn’t show much of anything. Brooks didn’t log a point and disappeared on offense.
- Boatwright was the best player on the court for USC. He finished with 24 points and six rebounds, although he did little to facilitate for his teammates.
- Naz Carter has broken out lately by attacking the basket and taking high-percentage shots. He got a little too aggressive in this one and finished with only five points on seven shots.
- Each team found a way to put some points on the board in the second half, but neither offense looked fluid in the first. They combined to shoot 4/19 (21%) on threes before the break with 17 turnovers.