Mike Hopkins has earned some criticism this year. He has failed to recruit or develop enough offensive creators, especially after the loss of Quade Green. He has also been slow to adapt his zone defense when teams have found holes in it. Even so, Hopkins has kept his players motivated during a tough season and has continually experimented with different lineups to improve the offense. Those two qualities were on full display in UW’s first conference road win of the year. Naz Carter played his best game of the conference season, Isaiah Stewart was as relentless as ever. As frustrating as the team has been all season, a road comeback from a double-digit loss to a tournament team reminds everyone that the underlying talent is present.
The Dawgs tried to address their lack of offensive playmaking with a lineup change. Both Elijah Hardy and Marcus Tsohonis started, which gave the Dawgs a pair of competent creators. In the first two minutes, Tsohonis assisted Hameir Wright on a long three and Remy Martin answered with a three from well beyond the NBA line. Both teams continued to execute well going into the first break, including relentless rim attacks by the Sun Devils and a nice transition alley-oop from Hardy to Isaiah Stewart.
Despite the solid start for UW, ASU went on a 10-0 run that was punctuated by a Rob Edwards dunk. During the run, UW’s old offensive issues came one possession after another. Jaden McDaniels dribbled across half court and passed it into the backcourt. Hardy threw a pass to no one. McDaniels and Hardy both airballed jumpers. Nahziah Carter finally drained a three to end the run, and the Dawgs were still within four.
The Huskies stayed within six at the under-eight timeout despite a 12-0 ASU advantage in free throw attempts. UW continued to chip away from the perimeter with more assertive offensive play. Carter made a pair of threes for the end product, but more aggressive movement off the ball and cross-court passes when ASU pressured the ball. At last, a pair of free throws by Stewart just before the two-minute mark tied the game at 37. McDaniels followed that with a difficult floater to take the lead. Alonzo Verge responded with a pair of threes for ASU to immediately reclaim the lead. The back-and-forth gave ASU a 45-41 halftime lead.
Tsohonis started the second half with a three, but ASU got to the basket on three possessions in a row to extend the lead. While Hardy was on the bench, the Dawgs featured McDaniels, Tsohonis, Cater, and McDaniels around Stewart. The smaller lineups were more effective offensively, but the compromises were clear due to ASU’s ability to get to the rim. After a quiet first half, Romello White got going after the half. Mickey Mitchell followed with a three, but the Dawgs answered with a 9-0 run to pull within a possession once again.Carter continued his good night with a beautiful entry pass to Stewart for a dunk that tied the game at 65. Two more dunks by Stweart and Carter gave UW a four-point lead and a 20-4 run.
The offense slowed down as the game settled more into the half court. ASU struggled to close down the gap, largely due to poor shooting from their best player. After a couple more long, errant threes, Martin fell to 1-10 from distance. While UW’s offense wasn’t clicking, Hardy found McDaniels for a three to stretch the lead to four.
ASU’s offense continued to sputter. They tried to turn up pressure on the ball but committed a couple of touch fouls that led to free throws. Carter drilled another three only for Verge to respond with one of his own.
As time got short, ASU started to foul to extend the game. While UW made a high percentage of their free throws, the Sun Devils made two threes to keep the pressure on. When ASU finally missed a few shots, UW closed out the game with a 90-83 win.