By Ken Cross
Signature wins are always unexpected and often come at the expense of college basketball’s elite. The Washington Huskies announced their arrival in the Mike Hopkins era on Wednesday night with an impressive 74-65 win over No. 2 Kansas in the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Hopkins spent 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse beside Coach Jim Boeheim. Naturally, he adopted Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone as a staple of the Washington program as he came on board. The zone controlled the game as the Huskies kept Kansas in the half-court and took the home crowd out of the game.
“We have been very fortunate this year to play a lot of teams that shoot 30 to 35 3-pointers and it’s really the kryptonite of the zone, so we’ve had to be able to adapt and adjust and figure that out so I think the experience of these other games allow these guys … again there is also awareness and focus and urgency,” commented Hopkins.
Highlights from @UW_MBB's win over No. 2 Kansas at the Sprint Center.
— Washington Athletics (@UWAthletics) December 7, 2017
The zone distorted Kansas as the Jayhawks made only 5-of-20 triples and held sharpshooter Devonte’ Graham to only one make in eight attempts as he played the entire 40 minutes.
“He is such a great player, he makes shots and the team struggles, he’s going to do what? He’s going to make a shot and they were real focused in video sessions and watching when he dribbles with his left hand he’s about to pop,” said Hopkins.
The Huskies boast a really strong junior class in guards David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle and then power forward Noah Dickerson. Hopkins has thrown in freshmen in leading scorer Jaylen Nowell who combines with Nahziah Carter, Carlos Johnson, and Dominc Green to give the Huskies a blend of experience while creating depth. Sophomore Sam Timmins has also played a key role in shooting 58.3 percent and averaging 5.6 boards per game.
Crisp is a heady point guard who is great at setting up his teammates. He had 10 points and seven assists in 37 minutes as he was central to how Thybulle and Dickerson were able to find their shots.
“I felt so confident with the way coach prepared us for this game and just seeing how locked in everybody was all week,” noted Crisp, “I just know our confidence was high. Second half – everybody – confidence was getting more. I was just trying to keep telling these guys ‘don’t let up’ they’re a great team. So we just stuck to the plan and kept going on.”
Washington led for nearly 29 minutes and scored 16 points off 13 Jayhawks turnovers. Thybulle’s five three-points and Dickerson’s 14 rebounds were huge in being able stay in control. At 8-2, now the nation will take note of the Huskies who are home to Gonzaga on Sunday.
“I felt so confident with the way coach prepared us for this game and just seeing how locked in everybody was all week, said Thybulle, “I just know our confidence was high. Second half, everybody; confidence was getting more. I was just trying to keep telling these guys ‘don’t let up.’ They’re a great team, so we just stuck to the plan and kept going on.”