The defensive specialist had a game-high 18 points, six assists, four steals, three rebounds and a block during the 80-62 win before a sellout crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena.
In each of the big road wins, Matisse Thybulle was the catalyst for a Washington men’s basketball team that’s struggled with offensive consistency.
The scouting report on the Huskies says if the defensive specialist provides a meaningful contribution at that other end, then UW is difficult to beat.
That proved to be the case Sunday as Thybulle did a little bit of everything while leading the Huskies to an 80-62 win over Washington State in front of a sellout crowd at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Arizona State @ UW, 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
“I don’t know about X-factor,” said Thybulle, who finished with a game-high 18 points, six assists, four steals, three rebounds and a block in 27 minutes. “I would say as long as I can keep doing what I do defensively, I think that we will be OK.”
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Maybe a tad better than OK.
Thybulle tallied a season-high 19 points in a road win against then-No. 2 Kansas. He had 14 at USC to trigger UW’s first Pac-12 road win.
Three weeks ago, Thybulle poured in 17 during a 70-65 win over Washington State in Pullman. And in UW’s last outing, he scored 18 during a victory at Colorado.
In those five games, including Sunday, Thybulle is averaging 17.2 points — 6.2 more than his average.
“One of my mentors put it really well, he said you are your best defender because I get in my head and I start locking myself up and I can’t do what I want to do,” Thybulle said. “The biggest thing for me is being aware of that. All of the coaches have done a really great job of keeping my confidence up.
“If I can be aware of myself and just be confident, I think I can keep going pretty steady.”
First-year coach Mike Hopkins says Thybulle makes UW a different team when he shows up like he did Sunday because he relieves some pressure from leading scorer Jaylen Nowell, who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“Tisse is one of the best players in the league when he plays like that,” Hopkins said. “When he’s attacking, making threes and playing at a high level he’s just different. We’re different.
“I think what’s happening is he’s getting comfortable with the offense and when we run a play, he’s finding other ways on how to attack other than what’s drawn up. He’s freelancing on the end more than ever.”
Anyone who has watched the Huskies knows they’ve been woeful on three-pointers and rank last in the Pac-12 while shooting 27.1 percent in league games.
So when Thybulle (3 of 4 on three-pointers and 7 of 10 overall) and Dominic Green (3 of 5 on three-pointers) got hot from long range, UW’s offense kicked into a different gear.
UW managed just 2-of-12 shooting on threes against WSU in Pullman in their first matchup. On Sunday, UW sank 11 of 25 while holding WSU to 6 of 24 behind the arc.
“We’ve had games where we’ve been great offensively and OK defensively,” Hopkins said. “Great defensively and horrible offensively, and tonight, as really good teams and programs do, there’s more of a consistency of the combination.”
On Sunday the Huskies took control late in the first half. They trailed 28-27 and finished the half on an18-2 run over the final 4:47.
During the spurt, forward Noah Dickerson rose over three defenders and flushed a dunk before UW drained four straight three-pointers.
Thybulle began the longball barrage and Green came off the bench and made three straight from downtown. Thybulle capped the first-half scoring for UW, which led 45-30 at the break, with a steal and dunk.
“In the second half, at the beginning we had a little lapse right there,” said Dickerson, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds. “We finally got it together like ‘game’s not over, we have to finish’ and got back to it. It’s always nice not having to come back from behind.”
Washington State began the second half connecting on 6 for 6 from the field, including four layups to pull to 49-44.
Thybulle answered with a four-point play — a three-pointer and a free throw that pushed UW’s lead to 53-44.
Over the next two minutes, he continued his personal assault with a highlight block, another crowd-pleasing dunk and a short jumper that put Washington ahead 57-44.
“Coach has mentioned that when I get going offensively we turn into a different team,” Thybulle said. “A trend that you also see is when I’m going offensively, we’re moving the ball as a team. That opens up so much more.”
Washington finished with 20 assists, the most since its win at USC.
Freshman forward Nahziah Carter punctuated the 18-point win with an alley-oop dunk in the final minutes as UW’s reserves put the finishing touches on its most lopsided Pac-12 victory.
The Huskies (15-6, 5-3 Pac-12) moved into a third-place tie in the conference standings, just 2½ games behind Arizona, which visits Saturday.
Washington State (9-11, 1-7), which trailed by as many as 24 points near the end, received 16 points from Robert Franks and 13 from Drick Bernstine.
“It was a good game,” Thybulle said. “I have to say the most gratifying part was just to see all the fans coming back.
“It’s been more than a couple years since we’ve had sellout games and consistently a high turnout and I think if we can keep having that our season will just keep getting stronger.”
Washington hosts Arizona State on Thursday.