It’s hard to call the second game of the season a must-win game. But after a brutal upset loss on opening night it was clear that Mike Hopkins couldn’t afford a second straight loss as a double digit favorite. Fortunately Washington shot it a little bit better than they did against Northern Illinois and came away with a 73-62 win over the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks to improve to 1-1 on the year. Emmitt Matthews Jr. was the star tonight for the Dawgs with 21 points and 9 rebounds as Jamal Bey chipped in with 15 points.
Coming off the disastrous shooting performance of Tuesday night against Northern Arizona things looked to be changing early. Daejon Davis (1-10 from the field last game) knocked down an early 3-pointer and Jamal Bey also canned one from behind the arc shortly thereafter. The second of those put the Huskies up 8-4 heading into the first media timeout.
Washington’s offense slowed down after that though as NAU started to figure out the zone a little bit. They several times managed to draw UW’s center to guard the midrange jumper then hit the bounce pass to the cutter on the baseline for a layup or a dunk. Washington left open a shooter from behind the arc and he nailed it to give Northern Arizona a 15-12 lead with 11:40 left prompting a Mike Hopkins timeout.
The offensive looks continued to look disjointed but it was finally accompanied by some Husky luck. Daejon Davis got stripped but it went straight to Nate Roberts underneath for a layup. Shortly after that Jackson Grant airballed a 5-foot baseline jumper when he rushed in transition but it went straight to Emmitt Matthews who put it back in to put UW up 20-17. Then UW had probably the best teamwork of their young season when Daejon Davis drove and dished it off to Jackson Grant who had an easy layup. Emmitt Matthews added 5 quick points on a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to put the Dawgs up 27-22 and give a little momentum.
As is typical with this Husky squad though they couldn’t capitalize. After that Matthews 3 they went 4 and a half minutes without a field goal before Jamal Bey asserted himself with 5 points over 2 possessions to give UW back the lead 32-30. Terrell Brown missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer and so Washington went into the break up by just a pair. Jamal Bey led all scorers with 10 points at the break as the Dawgs forced 12 turnovers but NAU had 14 points off 9 UW miscues.
It didn’t look like a good sign when on the first possession out of the half Terrell Brown turned it over on the perimeter leading to an easy and-1 fast break for Northern Arizona. After another UW turnover NAU came down and drew a Nate Roberts goaltending call to put the Lumberjacks back on top 35-32.
Both teams appeared evenly matched over the next 7 minutes as neither team held more than a 3 point lead until Nate Roberts made 1 of 2 free throws to put the Dawgs up 52-48. Washington got into the double bonus but their free throw shooting woes from Tuesday night continued to plague them and seemingly made just 1⁄2 at the line on every trip down the floor.
Fortunately NAU fell into a deep shooting slump and went without a field goal for nearly 6 minutes. That allowed Washington despite the free throw difficulties to go on a 13-1 run and turn a 48-46 deficit into a 59-49 advantage. Nine of Washington’s points came at the free throw line during that span as NAU couldn’t stay in front of UW’s drives but UW couldn’t get any layup attempts to fall.
The Lumberjacks had one last run left in them to make the Huskies sweat. Nate Roberts had a wide open dunk attempt but it somehow didn’t fall and then Roberts touched the ball while it hung on the rim to earn a technical foul. NAU made that free throw and then hit their next several shots for a quick 6-0 run that brought it down to 59-55 with 6:12 remaining.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. saved the day for Washington and on the next possession hit a deep 3 as the shot clock was winding down to give the Dawgs some breathing room.
From there Terrell Brown got to the line twice with the last of those coming after an and-1 for 5 quick points to extend the lead back to 12. In the middle of those plays PJ Fuller had an incredibly impressive block from behind to spark the transition layup opportunity for Brown. In the closing seconds NAU leaked a man out and seemingly had a layup on their last possession but PJ Fuller didn’t give up on the play and had a highlight reel chase down block to secure the 73-62 win.
Washington returns to the court on Monday night to take on Texas Southern at home.
Double Bonus Dots
- We knew it couldn’t get worse from a shooting perspective than Tuesday and the Dawgs turned it around a little going 5/13 (38.5%) from 3-pt range and 24/35 (68.6%) from the free throw line. If Washington could convert anywhere close to 50% of their looks at the rim they would be putting up 85+ given how often they make it to the free throw line.
- Jackson Grant got extended minutes in this game after hardly playing against NIU and gained confidence as the night went on. He airballed a pair of shots including his first 3-pt attempt but finished with 7 points and 3 offensive rebounds. Defensively though he’s a work in progress as NAU was able to exploit him on that end both when he was in the zone or in man.
- We saw the debut of Samuel Ariyibi tonight and he had a steal on his first possession then immediately turned it back over after putting the ball on the floor. He also had a nice block and similarly then missed a corner 3 badly. The defense looks real though while the offense is clearly a work in progress for the true freshman from Africa.
- There wasn’t much of Langston Wilson who took several hard falls on Tuesday night and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he needed a few days to let some bone bruises heal.
- Nate Roberts didn’t quite have the dominant game on the glass as he did Tuesday but still finished with 4 points and 8 rebounds. His post moves are still atrocious and he finished 0/3 posting up tonight plus the missed dunk and 2/5 from the free throw line. It’s still all rebounding and defense from Roberts.
- I was impressed by PJ Fuller’s defense as he finished with 3 steals and 2 blocks. Good to see from your backup guard off the bench.
- Jamal Bey was more assertive tonight and had 10 points at halftime and finished with 15 plus 4 rebounds. He was regularly passing up 3-pt shots but driving to try to get to the rim instead. That was a mixed bag as he was 2⁄3 from 3-pt range, 5/6 from the line, but 2/10 on 2-pt attempts.
- The two things I think we’re guaranteed to see from UW this year are fouls drawn and turnovers forced. Northern Arizona committed 28 fouls and had 21 turnovers after Northern Illinois had 30 and 20 respectively.
- There were definitely still times when UW lost track of shooters on the perimeter but overall it felt like a better overall job as NAU went 4/12 from the 3-pt line. That may just be that they made 0 contested shots whereas Northern Illinois consistently hit tough ones.