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Dominant 2nd Half Carries Huskies to Pac-12 Tournament Finals

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Washington’s missed FTs down the stretch didn’t come back to cost them...again

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Colorado vs Washington Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Washington had to sweat out a win against USC on Thursday because they missed several free throws. There was almost a repeat on Friday against Colorado as the Huskies missed 5 free throws in the final 3 minutes but held on for a 66-61 victory to advance to the Pac-12 tournament finals. The win protected a 23-5 UW run to start the 2nd half during which Washington took complete control.

After a tremendous offensive game against USC, Washington came out extremely flat to start this one. Colorado consistently got the ball to the free throw line and was able to put up floaters and runners over the outstretched arms of the UW centers and they almost all either rolled around the basket or banked off the glass before ending up in the net. Colorado used that to get off to an 8-0 lead while Matisse Thybulle picked up his 2nd foul just 4 minutes into the game.

However, Coach Hopkins coached this game in win or go home mode and Thybulle only sat for a minute or two before heading back onto the court. Dominic Green finally ended the offensive malaise with a 3-pointer and Naz Carter hit one as well to crawl back into it.

Jamal Bey came in midway through the half and contributed with some nice minutes as he forced multiple turnovers and one of them led to a Matisse dunk on a run out. The next possession Thybulle got a patented block of a midrange jumper from behind that led Crisp to a wide open transition layup and the 9-0 spurt put Washington on top by a score of 21-18.

That joy didn’t last long as Jaylen Nowell lost his man in the corner for a game-tying 3 on the next possession. Washington’s offense stagnated, settling for 3’s, while Colorado drove the ball with success. Sam Timmins picked up 3 fouls in 5 minutes while Noah picked up a pair himself. That left Hameir Wright as the lone big man standing and he stepped up with a pair of steals and some nice contests. However, Colorado’s Lucas Siewert drained a 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in the half and Washington trailed 33-27.

Whatever Coach Hopkins’ halftime speech was it certainly worked as the Huskies became the aggressors after the break and wrenched control away from Colorado. Naz Carter in particular was the star as he kept getting to the basket and drawing fouls. Meanwhile, the Buffaloes’ offense self-destructed and it took them almost 6 minutes into the 2nd half to make a basket. That combination led to a 23-5 UW run to take them from down 6 at half to up by 12.

If the Huskies could make their free throws they were assured a blowout victory... That wasn’t meant to be as David Crisp split free throws 3 times and Noah Dickerson missed a pair in the final minutes of the game and the Buffs were able to work their way back into it as Tyler Bey drew a foul on just about every possession. Dominic Green got fouled handling the ball against the Colorado press and made both despite the first one bouncing 4 feet up in the air before swishing through. That was enough to end Colorado’s threat and secure a UW win.

Jaylen Nowell and Naz Carter led the Huskies in scoring with 14 apiece. Tyler Bey once again dominated against the Dawgs with 22 points and 16 rebounds for Colorado.

Washington will next play on Saturday night in the Pac-12 final against the winner of Oregon/Arizona State at 7:30 pm PT on ESPN.

Double Bonus Dots

  • Washington has put themselves in position to escape the dreaded 8/9 matchup in the NCAA tournament if they can win tomorrow night. It’s going to be tough as they’ll have to either play ASU (who beat them by 12 in their only meeting) or Oregon who easily could’ve and possibly should’ve swept the Huskies. Given this victory I can’t imagine Washington falling below a 9 seed even if they were to get blown out tomorrow.
  • Matisse Thybulle ultimately fouled out of this game with 3 minutes to go but he deserves a huge amount of credit for playing almost the entire 1st half with 2 fouls and not picking up a 3rd. He finished with 12 points, 3 blocks, and 1 steal.
  • Naz Carter was phenomenal for Washington in the 2nd half. He knew that no one on Colorado could stay in front of him if he took them off the dribble and he drew foul after foul attacking the basket. Washington hasn’t been in a position where they need to rely on him every night. But if he can do this on a consistent basis the next 2 years he’ll end up an all-conference player. It’s all about the reliability at this point. The athleticism and skills are there.
  • Jaylen Nowell also deserves credit for 5 quick points to start the 2nd half when he was also aggressive driving to the rim. Washington settled for way too many 3’s in the 1st half and I’m sure it was Hop’s message to keep driving and he showed the rest of the team it was possible. He finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
  • David Crisp had a rough night shooting just 3 of 12 from the field and 3 of 6 from the FT line with 3 turnovers. Better days ahead.
  • Noah Dickerson was also brutal in this one and is having a nightmare offensive start to the Pac-12 tournament. He was 1/7 from the floor yesterday and finished 2/4 today but just 1/5 on his final 5 FT attempts. He still kept Washington alive on the boards though with 11 for the second straight night and he didn’t let his lack of offense keep him from trying on the defensive glass.
  • Hameir Wright ultimately fouled out trying to fight against Tyler Bey but he kept the Huskies in it with his defense and ended up with a career high 4 steals. If he could just figure out how to be an average player on offense he’d be a massive net plus for the team.

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