By Ken Cross
The Washington Huskies had been flying under the radar and when the Arizona schools descended on Seattle, a 2-0 weekend ledger announced the Huskies’ arrival as a potential threat in the Pac-12 championship race. After controlling the tempo and outlasting Arizona State, 68-64, on Thursday night, Washington had a flare for the dramatic in it’s 78-75 win over streaking Arizona.
Freshman guard Jaylen Nowell drove the right side of the lane when DeAndre Ayton converged on him and blocked his shot. The ball popped out to the perimeter where Dominic Green was waiting. He caught and shot all in one motion and hit nothing but net as the clock hit zero and he was falling out of bounds.
“It was divine intervention,” said Washington coach Mike Hopkins, who has quickly endeared himself to the denizens of the Alaska Airlines Arena, “We ran our 1-4 low. With Jaylen, you have seen that a few times this year. He was going to get the last shot. Sometimes the best three-point shot you can get is off an offensive rebound because guys are scrambling.”
Green, a 6-6 junior swingman, had the hot hand all evening as he made four triples in scoring 14 points in 29 minutes. Hopkins admired Green’s work ethic and talked about the emotions in watching him make the game-winner.
“Dom, if you ever come to the facility, he is always in here,” said Hopkins, “Nobody works harder than Dom. He’s one that’s gone up and down in his career and for him to have that moment, it’s just special.”
Green came in averaging 5.7 points per game as he comes off the bench in playing his role. He has confidence in his ability to affect a game with his shooting prowess. His game against Arizona was reminiscent of his performance in an earlier win at USC where he netted four triples in a 16-point effort as he made 6-of-7 field goal attempts.
“He has helped us win a lot of games and when it leaves his hand and when he shoots, I think it’s going in,” Hopkins commented, “When that ball leaves his hand, you are spiritually trying to help him put it in the hole and when you see it, it’s like pure mayhem.”
Noah Dickerson, who shoots 56 percent from the floor and leads UW in rebounding, was the focal point of the Washington game plan. The Huskies went after Arizona’s twin towers with Dusan Ristic and DeAndre Ayton inside. Dickerson was able to use his footwork and his body to get position in the paint. He varied his shot selection as well in finishing with 25 points in making 10-of-16 shots in 33 minutes.
“There are few guys who have God-given ability to score in the post,” said Hopkins, “He has great footwork, he’s uncanny, and he has a lot of moves and he’s got good touch. The one move he had on the layup was big time over those guys.”
It wasn’t Washington’s first experience with beating a Top 10 team in Hopkins’ first season. The Huskies went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and took down then No. 2 Kansas, 74-65, in December. That was Washington’s first Top 2 win on the road in the history of the program.
“When we were down, they made a run,” said Hopkins, “They’re a championship caliber team and we knew they would. Kansas did it to us. The good thing that was different from the Kansas game was our crowd. That’s why I believe our crowd was a factor to us winning.”
Of course, a court-storming was in order as there are no fines levied in the Pac-12. Hopkins was so elated he probably would have picked up the check. He saw lots of bounce in his team and then saw the electricity that the sell out crowd used to pick up Washington after Arizona rallied from 14 down.
“Not only did we have to get stops, we had to get rebounds and when you see those two big 7-footers in there, they are huge and they are athletic,” he said, “Once I thought we were getting killed on the glass, they got three big ones at the end and when you saw our crowd stand up, that was as loud as any arena and you could see our guys get that extra jolt of energy.”
It was Washington’s fourth Pac-12 win in a row as the Huskies improved to 17-6 and 7-3, currently good for third in the league. It sent a message to the rest of the conference that the Dawgs are now a major player in the Pac-12 race.
“This league is tough,” noted Hopkins, “There is a lot of upsets in college basketball. You have to go out and execute your game plan. Stay humble, hungry, and wise. Anything can happen – a lot of season left.”