Matisse Thybulle, the Pac-12's chief thief, will continue to pester any foe who shares the floor with him — altering shots, altering drives and, more than anything, altering results.
It might have been the easiest question David Crisp has ever fielded.
About 20 minutes after the Huskies’ 69-55 win over UCLA on Saturday, a reporter asked the Washington point guard how his team was able to force 18 turnovers in the first half.
Crisp just pointed to Matisse Thybulle, the man sitting next to him at the podium.
“Do you know who this guy is?”
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Oh, we know him. And I get the feeling the rest of the country will soon enough.
Saturday, Thybulle had seven steals for the second game in a row. Six of those came in the first half, which had him thinking about Jason Hamilton’s school record of nine.
But Matisse wasn’t the only one with the Huskies’ all-time mark on his mind.
“I’m glad it’s a sellout crowd vs. UCLA,” Hamilton tweeted. “Matisse Thybulle is going to break my single-game steals record.”
Alas, Thybulle fell two swipes short of Hamilton. But when you have a 7-foot wingspan, that mark, like many other things, is very much within reach.
In the meantime, the Pac-12’s chief thief will continue to pester any foe who shares the floor with him — altering shots, altering drives and, more than anything, altering results.
Heading into Saturday’s game, Thybulle was averaging 3.0 steals and 2.14 blocks per game. The former was first in the Pac-12 and fourth in the country. The latter was tied for second in the conference. After Saturday, he’s at 3.2 steals per game, which should put him at No. 2 in the nation.
According to Washington’s sports-information department, only two players in the past 20 years (Duke’s Shane Battier and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel) have finished a season averaging two blocks and two steals per game. Neither averaged three steals and two blocks, which Tybulle is on pace to do.
It’s mind blowing that the forward is able to perform so consistently given how aware other teams are of his skill set. His teammates admit he still gives them hell in practice despite playing against him all the time.
Rarely has intuition and athleticism blended so potently on the college level. And when you see that Washington has the best scoring defense in the Pac-12, the guy wearing No. 4 is the first place you look.
“There are guys that are taught to paint, and there are guys who are artists. He’s an artist,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said of Thybulle. “You gotta let him paint a little bit. He anticipates. He’s disruptive. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Oh yeah, he also knows what he’s doing on the other end of the floor. Thybulle dropped 14 points against the Bruins, going 4 of 8 from the field and 3 of 5 from deep. He entered the game having scored 9.5 points per game for the season and 10.1 per game in conference, the second of which is third on the team.
Last year, you didn’t see the 6-foot-5 Thybulle’s name on any NBA mock-draft boards. But given what he’s done on the defensive end this year, he popped up as the 47th in ESPN’s mock. When you can make even the most cautious players look reckless? You figure someone’s gonna take a chance, no?
We’ll wait and see about that.
For now, Thybulle’s gonna continue to do his thing for a team that’s won 11 games in a row. He’s going to focus on being the defensive centerpiece for a squad that’s 18-4 overall, 9-0 in conference and three games clear of everyone else in the Pac-12.
Not that team success and individual achievement are mutually exclusive.
Saturday marked the fourth time Thybulle has tallied seven steals in his UW career. Assuming he stays healthy, he knows he’ll have at least 10 more cracks at Hamilton’s record.
So Saturday, he issued a warning.
“Jason, I’m coming for you.”
Come to think of it, that warning wasn’t for Hamilton. It’s for all the other teams Thybulle is going to face.