The Huskies withstood a three-point assault from Washington State and pounded the Cougars inside with a relentless attack in an 85-67 victory
Matisse Thybulle and Nahziah Carter flushed highlight-worthy alley-oop dunks. Noah Dickerson hammered two crowd-pleading slams, and Jaylen Nowell and David Crisp sliced past defenders for layups and floaters.
The Huskies withstood a three-point assault from Washington State and pounded the Cougars inside with a relentless attack to win their Pac-12 opener 85-67 on Saturday night in front of 8,068 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Led by Crisp (season-high 23 points), Nowell (20 points, eight rebounds and five assists) and Thybulle (17 points, four blocks and two steals), UW outscored WSU 34-12 in the paint.
Washington, which improved to 10-4 and 1-0 Pac-12, won its third consecutive game against its cross-state rival in a contest that pitted several longtime friends and rivals from their high-school days in Seattle against each other.
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“There was little bit of chirping,” Crisp said. “It was new faces, too. A lot of guys I hadn’t seen before. But I like it when people start talking. It’s fun.”
After starting the season 7-3, Washington State (7-7, 0-1) has dropped four consecutive games.
The Cougars were hard-pressed to end their losing streak without all-Pac-12 forward Robert Franks, who suffered a hip contusion against New Mexico State on Dec. 23 and missed his second consecutive game.
Freshman guard CJ Elleby, who starred at nearby Cleveland High, picked up the offensive slack for the Cougars and finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds – both team highs – in his first college game back home.
But the Cougars needed another scorer or two.
WSU entered the game with a Pac-12-leading 82.2 points per game, but was held to its lowest points of the season – 15 fewer than its average.
Washington, which led for 38:25 minutes, fell behind for the first tie when junior guard Jervae Robinson (14 points) drained an open 3-pointer in the corner that gave WSU a 46-45 lead with 16:59 left.
Mike Hopkins called timeout and the UW coach verbally tore into his team on the sideline.
“He pretty much lit a fire under our butts,” Crisp said. “What are you guys doing? Once we (saw) him getting on us like that, we know we messed up so let’s go out here and correct it.”
Said Thybulle: “We just needed a second to sit back. Coach brought us back to Earth. We took our breath.
“Then once we were able to take back control of the tempo, we really just took over the game again. When we can control the speed of the game, it’s usually going to come out in our favor.”
Trailing for the first time, the Huskies answered with a 12-0 run that began with Dickerson’s dunk and capped by a Nowell’s three-pointer that put them back on top 57-46 with 14:34 left.
WSU never got closer than eight points.
When asked what was said during the timeout, Hopkins smiled and said: “I plead the fifth.”
Then he added: “At the end of the day all you’re doing as a coach is push the buttons to get them to respond. Sometimes it’s shaking them, sometimes it’s waking them up.
“Letting them know this is what you worked for and this is our opportunity and we need to pick it up on the defensive end. It felt like our energy level was low. … Those guys really picked it up on the defensive end.”
Both teams converted 11 three-pointers, but UW attempted 20 shots behind the arc compared with 27 by WSU.
“We usually don’t have a great result when teams make 11 threes against us,” Hopkins said. “They were hot. They were hitting from all over.”
The same can be said about Washington, which converted 30 of 56 field goals for a season-high 56.6 percent.
No one was more efficient than Thybulle, who was 4 of 4 on field goals, 3 for 3 behind the arc and 6 for 6 at the free-throw line.
The Huskies finished with 17 assists, which was also the most for the season.
“Once we’re playing basketball the right way, making the extra pass and finding the open man, the ball is moving and we got flow in the offense you see what happens,” Crisp said. “Guys are knocking down shots, and it’s contagious when you make those one-more passes.
“Everything is contagious. Sharing the ball, that’s big for us.”
Slow starts had plagued the Huskies during non-conference games and particularly their past two outings when they fell behind by double digits in the first half.
On Saturday, Washington finally delivered the quick start that Hopkins had wanted.
The Huskies raced to a 10-3 lead before doubling up the Cougars when Dickerson flushed a dunk to put them ahead 26-13.
Washington’s lead swelled to 13 points after Carter converted layup off a baseline inbound pass from Jamal Bey that pushed UW ahead 31-18 with 9:23 left in the first half.
The Cougars responded with a 14-2 run to cut their deficit to a point (33-32) at the 5:40 mark.
Washington closed the first half with a 10-6 spurt to take a 43-38 lead into the break.