Close loss against top-ranked Gon­zaga tells a lot about Huskies

The Olympian - - Front Page - BY LAU­REN KIRSCHMAN [email protected]­new­stri­bune.com

In its sec­ond game against a top-10 team this sea­son, Wash­ing­ton came up just short. The Huskies fell to Gon­zaga 81-79 on Wed­nes­day night.

After Jaylen Now­ell tied the score, 79-79, by hit­ting two foul shots with 9 sec­onds left, the Bull­dogs went im­me­di­ately down the floor. They found lead­ing scorer Rui Hachimura, who knocked down the gamewin­ning jumper with 1 sec­ond left. Do­minic Green got off a last-sec­ond, half-court heave, but it fell short.

Even with the de­feat, it was a strong per­for­mance from the Huskies. Here are three ob­ser­va­tions from the loss:

1. The Huskies can play with the top teams.

Head coach Mike Hop­kins has said all sea­son that when UW is at its best, it can beat any­one. But the Huskies can lose to any­one, too. That much has been ev­i­dent through­out the non-con­fer­ence sched­ule, and even dur­ing the slim 70-61 ex­hi­bi­tion vic­tory over Seat­tle Pa­cific.

On Wed­nes­day night, UW was a last-sec­ond shot away from tak­ing No. 1-ranked Gon­zaga to over­time. The Huskies trailed by as many as 14 points dur­ing the game, but they kept bat­tling back. UW ar­guably showed more prom­ise in this loss than dur­ing any of its wins

this sea­son.

Even so, it was still a loss. And the Huskies need a big win for their NCAA Tour­na­ment re­sume.

UW loaded its non­con­fer­ence sched­ule with chal­leng­ing games in hopes of do­ing just that. The Huskies have a few solid wins, but missed their op­por­tu­nity to post vic­to­ries over No. 8 Auburn and Gon­zaga. That’s why the At­lantic City Board­walk Clas­sic against No. 15 Vir­ginia Tech on Dec. 15 is so im­por­tant. UW has shown it can play with one of the best teams in the coun­try. Now, it needs to beat one.

2. Hop­kins wasn’t kid­ding about that as­sist-turnover ra­tio.

Hop­kins said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence this week that hav­ing more as­sists than turnovers is key to UW win­ning. Even though the Huskies didn’t beat Gon­zaga, is was one of their more im­pres­sive out­ings of the sea­son. And right there on the box score is one of the rea­sons why: 15 as­sists, nine turnovers.

The Huskies had 18 turnovers and 10 as­sists in the 88-66 loss to Auburn, seven as­sists and 17 turnovers in the nar­row loss to Min­nesota and 14 turnovers and 13 as­sists in the four-point vic­tory over UC Santa Bar­bara on Sun­day. The ra­tio isn’t just a talk­ing point, it’s a sign that the Huskies are mov­ing the ball and run­ning their of­fen­sive ef­fec­tively. That hasn’t been a given through­out the early part of the sea­son.

When UW gets sped up, it stops mak­ing the right passes and turns the ball over. And when the Huskies turn the ball over once, it seems to spi­ral.

Against the Bull­dogs, UW con­trolled the tempo, hold­ing a team that en­tered the game av­er­ag­ing 98.4 points per game to

81. While there are no moral vic­to­ries, Wed­nes­day’s loss showed marked im­prove­ment for the Huskies in those ar­eas.

3. Depth con­cerns con­tinue.

The Huskies need more con­sis­tent con­tri­bu­tions from play­ers not named Now­ell (26 points) and Noah Dick­er­son (18 points). Dur­ing the loss to Gon­zaga, Matisse Thy­bulle filled that role, scor­ing 18 points. And point guard David Crisp was nearly in dou­ble fig­ures, too. He fin­ished with nine points and four as­sists.

That’s the type of box score UW needs to fin­ish with more of­ten, es­pe­cially on a night when Dick­er­son and Hameir Wright both fouled out.

The Huskies aren’t a deep team, with only three bench play­ers get­ting reg­u­lar time off the bench. Hop­kins has said he needs to work on de­vel­op­ing more depth, and he’s right. While Nahziah Carter and Wright can of­ten be counted on for a boost off the bench, UW needs more from oc­ca­sional starter Sam Tim­mins. Tim­mins had just two points and three re­bounds against the Bull­dogs.

Fresh­men Ja­mal Bey and Bryan Penn-John­son could play a larger roles as the sea­son moves for­ward. Hop­kins has pointed to both as play­ers he needs to get on the floor more of­ten. Only Bey played against Gon­zaga. He was on the floor for four min­utes and didn’t score.

YOUNG KWAK AP

Wash­ing­ton guard David Crisp (1) shoots in front of Gon­zaga for­ward Bran­don Clarke (15) dur­ing the first half on Wed­nes­day night in Spokane. Crisp scored nine points in the Huskies’ 81-79 loss.

YOUNG KWAK AP

Wash­ing­ton for­ward Noah Dick­er­son, left, and Gon­zaga for­ward Filip Petru­sev go after a re­bound dur­ing the first half on Wed­nes­day night in Spokane. Dick­er­son had 13 points and seven re­bounds in the Huskies’ 81-79 loss.

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