First, Emmitt Matthews Jr. crouched low in a defensive stance, spread his long arms wide and started barking on the court, which prompted Langston Wilson to follow with a few howls on the sideline. 

The woofing and barking have become the calling card of this season’s Washington men’s basketball team that wants to win games with a ball-hawking, tenacious defense. 

On Thursday night, the Huskies relied on a full-court press for a string of defensive stops in the second half as well as a balanced scoring attack to pull away from Northern Arizona in the final minutes for a 73-62 nonconference victory in front of 6,297 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena. 

“When you put that press on you’re trying to play with pace and be aggressive and play intense,” said Matthews, who finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting and nine rebounds. “It’s like you’re on the prowl. So we start barking.” 

Barking Huskies is a new thing at Washington. It began during a fall practice with Wilson, one of seven Husky newcomers. 

“We were doing 5 on 5 … and the second unit was beating the first five by like 10 points,” Matthews said. “And Langston started barking at me. 

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“I’m like, ‘What is he doing?’ And then the whole team started barking. Then we go down, score and started coming back. Then we started barking at them. Now everybody barks.” 

Coach Mike Hopkins added: “It’s pretty cool. It’s their thing. I like it. The bench does it. You can hear it in the Dawg Pack. Heck, I want to get the entire building barking. We need that something extra that becomes our identity.” 

UW’s defense proved to be the difference on a night when the Huskies struggled offensively once again. 

Jamal Bey had 15 points, Terrell Brown Jr. 11 and Daejon Davis 10 points for Washington (1-1), which bounced back from an embarrassing loss two nights earlier in its season opener. 

“In the early part of the season, you start to figure out some things,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been working on man (defense) … and we did a good job taking away the three. 

“Was it pretty? No. There was end-of-the game execution. Fouling. Missing some layups. We’ve got to be better in that area. But the style of play? Yes. We’ve been working on pressing. Working on our zone and working on man (defense).” 

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The Huskies forced 21 turnovers that led to 20 points, blocked seven shots and held the Lumberjacks to 37% shooting. 

At the break, Washington led 32-30 following a first half in which momentum was fleeting, the lead changed five times and neither team led by more than five points. 

If Hopkins’ goal was to expand the rotation and give lots of guys meaningful minutes, then mission accomplished. Ten Huskies logged at least two minutes and everyone took a shot in the first half. 

But Hopkins also wanted Washington to improve upon the deficiencies that led to Tuesday’s season-opening 71-64 defeat against Northern Illinois. 

Certainly, the Huskies couldn’t shoot any worse than they did two days ago when they converted 26.7% (20 of 75) of their field-goal attempts, 16.7% (3 of 18) of three-pointers and 58.3% (21 of 36) of free throws. 

UW shot 37% from the field on Thursday and 69% from the line.

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And Hopkins stressed the importance of improving UW’s soft perimeter defense that allowed NIU to connect on 12 of 23 three-pointers. Ideally, Hopkins wants UW to limit opponents to five 3s. Again, mission accomplished. Northern Arizona converted just 4 of 12 shots behind the arc. 

However, the Huskies, who were 16-point favorites, had difficulty pulling away from the Lumberjacks, who lost 81-52 at Arizona on Tuesday to start the season. 

NAU led 48-46 with 13:30 remaining before Washington built a seemingly comfortable 59-49 lead. The Lumberjacks didn’t go away quietly and answered with a 7-0 run and to pull to within 59-55 with 6:16 left. 

Following a UW timeout, Matthews launched a three-pointer that rattled in and beat the shot-clock buzzer on the ensuing possession, which gave the Huskies a little bit of separation. 

UW rebuilt its lead to 13 and NAU never got closer than six points in that final 5½ minutes. 

The Lumberjacks (0-2) received 12 points from Ezekiel Richards while Jalen Cone had 11 and Mason Stark 10. 

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Perhaps fittingly, the game ended with UW reserve guard PJ Fuller sprinting down court for a chase-down block to emphatically reject Stark’s layup. 

“I felt like it was icing on the cake,” Fuller said. “I felt like we needed that so I just went up and got it. It just kind of happened. It was showtime for the crowd.” 

Washington’s four-game homestand continues Monday against Texas Southern. 

NOTE: Junior center Riley Sorn missed his second straight game due to a back injury.