Arizona entered its showdown with UW in the midst of a very bad couple of weeks. The Wildcats had lost four of five, including blowout losses to both LA schools on the road last week. The school is in the process of firing one of Sean Miller’s assistants for an academic fraud issue, a scandal that is somehow unrelated to the FBI’s probe into the school’s recruiting. On top of that, point guard Brandon Williams injured his knee and remains unavailable.
Was a matchup with the red-hot, conference-leading Huskies the cure for what ailed Arizona? In a word, no. Matisse Thybulle continued to wreak havoc defensively with five steals and five blocks to go with fifteen points. David Crisp scored 17 to lead five players in double figures. The Huskies did not run away with the game, but they built a solid lead in the second half and weathered every Arizona rally to chalk up a win in an historically unfriendly building, 67-60.
As if Bill Walton needed any more reason to praise Matisse Thybulle, the Huskies defensive stopper came out on fire once again. He opened the game with a steal that he turned into a fast break layup. Moments later, he added a three-pointer to give UW the early lead.
At the other end, Arizona made a concerted effort to attack the center of the zone. Sam Timmins started in the middle, but Noah Dickerson subbed in at the first TV timeout. Arizona center Chase Jeter went at both of them effectively and put up the Wildcats’ first eight points by himself.
UW maintained a narrow lead in a defensive struggle well into the first half. Arizona finally tied the game on an extremely long three by Dylan Smith at the shot-clock buzzer. Elijah Hardy made a surprise appearance in a tie game late in the first half. He promptly made a steal and turned it over when he traveled on the fast break. Both teams continued to trade turnovers that were as much sloppy offense as they were good defense.
Naz Carter started out cold from the floor, but found the net when he decided to attack the rim. It was a welcome reprieve for the Dawgs, whose offense featured too many turnovers, step-backs, and contested jumpers. The problem started with Washington’s guards, who struggled to beat Arizona’s defenders off the dribble to either get to the basket or kick the ball out to an open shooter. Dickerson’s limited mobility also contributed to the lack of high-percentage shots in the opening half.
Arizona got a few shots at the rim to string together a run for their first lead at 24-22. As he tends to do, Jaylen Nowell helped calm things down for the Huskies. He made a pair of mid-range jumpers, the first on a drive and the second on an offensive rebound. Jeter became the first player in double figures with a pair of free throws at the other end. Nowell finished the half with a driving layup that gave UW a 29-28 lead.
The second half started with a small play that had a big impact. Dickerson got the ball down low and drew Jeter’s third foul. In the minutes that followed, the Arizona offense misfired and the Huskies got out in transition. With over 17 minutes to go in the game, Dickerson got Jeter off the ground with a pump fake and drew his fourth foul to send Arizona’s most effective player to the bench.
Even without Jeter on the court, the Huskies continued to scuffle offensively. Crisp and Carter each made a three, but Arizona found space on the baseline often enough to stay within striking distance. Meanwhile, foul trouble also struck Washington. Thybulle tried to block a Justin Coleman jumper from behind and fouled him for his fourth.
With Jeter back in the game, Carter made a driving layup and Dickerson converted an old-fashioned three-point play to stretch the lead to nine. A Crisp jumper pushed the lead to double-digits, but Ira Lee nabbed his fifth offensive rebound on the other end and scored to keep Arizona lingering.
Crisp answered with another nice play- a drive and dish to Thybulle for a wide open three that pushed the lead to a game-high 12. On cue, Smith hit another three and Coleman hit a pair of free throws to get back within seven. With the pressure rising, Nowell broke down the defense and made a jumper late in the shot clock to steady the ship. Arizona had a chance to cut the lead to two possessions at the line, but Coleman missed both with 2:30 to go.
At the other end, Crisp drove to the basket, drew Jeter’s fifth foul, and made two clutch free throws to extend the lead to 10 with under two minutes to play. Fans started to leave the arena in droves. The Wildcats finally tried a full court press and Washington was able to pass its way out of it rather than dribbling into a turnover.
While the game was never comfortable, UW maintained a lead for the final 19 minutes in an extremely difficult environment. Arizona came into the game 95-5 in its last 100 home games. The Huskies had not won in Tucson since 2012. It was another landmark accomplishment in a season full of them for the Dawgs.
- Dickerson did not start and played only nine minutes in the first half (below average for a player who plays about 25 minutes per game). He didn’t make a field goal before halftime, but he did draw two important fouls from Jeter and made 3/4 free throws. Of course, Dickerson played almost the entire second half to finish with 10 points in 26 minutes.
- Dickerson’s early minutes limit was predictable given his ankle injury. What wasn’t predictable was Hameir Wright’s absence from the rotation. His size would’ve been useful, too, as Arizona rebounded an astounding 50% of their own misses before the half. According to Percy Allen on Twitter, Wright “wasn’t feeling well.”
- They don’t show up in the box score, but Timmins had at least three back-taps on the offensive glass to keep possessions alive.
- After a slow start, Carter came on strong in the second half. He finished with 10 points off the bench, four rebounds, and a very high activity level.
- Brandon Randolph is one of Arizona’s most productive offensive players, and his importance is magnified with Brandon Williams out of the lineup. The Husky perimeter defense gave him fits. He finished 2-13 from the floor with six turnovers.