UW, which has games against ranked teams coming up this week, struggled with the Mavericks most of the night before pulling away for a 86-73 win.
Considering the marquee opponents ahead, perhaps the Huskies overlooked an Omaha men’s basketball team that entered Sunday’s game with a 1-7 record.
This was supposed to be a relatively easy tuneup for Washington, which had three straight wins in its rearview mirror and much-anticipated matchups against No. 2 Kansas and No. 15 Gonzaga this week.
The Huskies wrestled with the Mavericks for most of the game before pulling away in the final minutes for an 86-73 nonconference victory in front of 4,903 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We were down one with seven minutes to go in the game and Matisse Thybulle decided to be Deion Sanders,” Hopkins said. “You saw the effect that he has on the game.
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“Then we were getting the rebounds and those 50-50 balls that we weren’t getting for 32 minutes or 33 minutes of the game. That’s the difference. We’re at our best when we are playing defense and rebounding the ball and flying around.”
Washington trailed 63-62 when Thybulle was fouled on a three-point attempt and put the Huskies up for good with three free throws with 7:10 left.
On the ensuing possession, he blocked a long jumper and collected the rebound to start a fast break that ended with his acrobatic layup.
Thybulle’s five-point outburst began an 18-2 run for the Huskies.
The spurt ended when Sam Timmins collected a Noah Dickerson miss and flushed a putback dunk that put UW ahead 80-65 with 2:49 left.
Washington, which improved to 6-2, didn’t allow Omaha to get closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
“Defense,” said Thybulle when asked how the Huskies finally put away the Mavericks. “That’s what we were trying to focus on from the jump, but we just didn’t bring energy. We figured it out in the second half and it got contagious. Guys started heating up and they had no answer for it.”
Thybulle, a 6-foot-5 guard with a 7-foot wingspan, finished with 12 points, six rebounds, five blocks and three steals.
During UW’s decisive spurt, he had seven points and three blocks.
“It was Matisse Thybulle all of a sudden turning the ignition on,” Hopkins said. “And David Crisp really locking down.”
Crisp collected a personal-best four steals, but the Huskies also needed an offensive explosion from their 6-foot point guard who finished with a season-high 24 points on 8-for-16 shooting.
“The great thing about David is he has the ability to score and make shots,” Hopkins said. “I love point guards that can score.”
Dickerson tallied 16 points and Jaylen Nowell chipped in 14 for Washington, which shot 50 percent from the field.
Still, the Huskies had their flaws.
They finished with just nine assists on 30 field goals and Omaha (1-8) out-rebounded them 41-34.
Washington also had no answer for 6-5 junior guard Zach Jackson, who scored a game-high 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including three three-pointers.
When the Huskies are at their best, they’re sharing the ball offensively and imposing their will defensively with their 2-3 zone.
Holding Omaha to just two points during a five-minute span and giving up 10 points in the final seven minutes gave Hopkins hope as Washington heads to Kansas City for Wednesday’s game against the Jayhawks.
“That’s what it looks like,” he said. “It’s hard to show a team when they can’t see it, but we saw what it looks like. And we’ve seen it. We just need it for longer periods of time.”