Dickerson has seen almost all of his statistics get worse this season because he is drawing double- and triple-teams, which has made for more open shots for his teammates, who take a 5-0 Pac-12 record into Oregon on Thursday night.
In Mike Hopkins’ way of thinking, Noah Dickerson should feel flattered about the extra defensive attention he’s attracting this season.
“A team is designed to stop you,” the Washington men’s basketball coach said smiling. “That’s great. Isn’t that the greatest compliment?
“It’s the hardest thing to do, but also it’s part of what’ll make him a greater player as we move forward because if we start making shots, (opposing teams) are going to start doing what? Threes are more than twos, so they’re going to start taking that away. … Tougher together. Bottom line. It’s simple.”
Not so simple for Dickerson who is hampered with constant double teams in the post, which explains why he’s down in nearly every statistical category from last season when he had a breakout year and was voted first team all-Pac-12.
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“It’s usually 2-3 guys in my lap where it’s really difficult for (UW teammates) to pass me the ball,” Dickerson said. “I’m now the sole purpose of a defense, which is different.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s aggravating. But it does show that a team and a defense is trying to stop one person for them to have a chance and that’s a high honor.”
Since last season, Dickerson’s production has decreased in scoring (from 15.5 to 13.2), rebounding (8.4 to 6.7), field goal percentage (56.9 percent to 54.1) and minutes (26.9 to 24.7).
Dickerson might have been the biggest reason the Huskies finished a surprising 21-13 last season.
In perhaps UW’s best game since Hopkins took over – a 74-65 upset win at No. 2 Kansas – Dickerson touched the ball 39 times on offense while scoring 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting and collecting 14 rebounds.
“It’s no secret that we want to get the ball to Noah,” said the second-year UW coach. “Teams have been taking that away and forcing other guys to step up.”
Heading into Thursday’s game at Oregon (11-7, 2-3 Pac-12), the Huskies (14-4, 5-0) are riding a seven-game winning streak despite Dickerson’s diminished role within a more diversified offensive attack.
“He’s doing a lot more things for us other than just scoring,” said senior guard Dominic Green, who had a game-high 17 points and four three-pointers in last Saturday’s 71-52 win over California.
“Noah opens up lot of things for me,” Green said. “Not even just me, all of the other shooters. … He creates a lot of opportunities.”
Before the Pac-12 opener, Washington ranked last in the conference while shooting 30.5 percent on three-pointers.
In the past five games, Dickerson is averaging just 7.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. He managed just three points against Stanford in 11 minutes – both season lows – while scoring four points against Washington State and seven at Colorado.
While teams negated Dickerson’s offense in the post, the Huskies found their shooting stroke on the perimeter.
Suddenly, the team that couldn’t shoot straight is torching opponents from long range.
In its five Pac-12 games, Washington is shooting a league-high 43.7 percent behind the arc.
“Teams in the Pac-12 know what Noah did to them last year and they’re not going to let him do that again,” guard David Crisp said. “That’s why he’s seeing so many double and triple teams.”
Crisp shot 29.3 percent on three-pointers in nonconference games, but he leads the Pac-12 with 57.7 percent shooting behind the arc in league play.
“I get great looks because of Noah,” Crisp said. “So if we keep doing our job, this is going to flip and Noah is going to get back to being the Noah that we all know.”
Dickerson is sure the scouting report on Washington is going to change and he’ll get a little more room to operate in the middle.
“I know for a fact that teams are going to start taking a look at how they’re playing me,” he said. “Now that we have one of the highest three-point percentages in the league, that may make them want to try something else.
“They can’t keep letting these guys get all of these open shots and that’s going to open my game up a little bit. Or they can just keep playing me the same way and hope people start missing.”
Hopkins added: “I think he’s going to have some really big games coming up. He’s too hard to guard down there. He’s too good. To his defense, it’s like they’re building a wall around him.”
For now, Dickerson is adjusting his game to combat the extra attention.
In UW’s last outing, Dickerson drew 13 fouls and did the bulk of his scoring at the free-throw line where he connected on 10 of 15 shots. Despite 1-for-3 shooting from the field, he finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s a high honor,” Dickerson said when asked about the double teams. “But it’s frustrating because I’m down there working all game and it’s hard. Now I’m getting points elsewhere. Going to the free-throw line and drawing more fouls on my post ups.”
It’s difficult for Dickerson to quibble about his diminished role while UW is off to its best conference start since the 1983-84 season.
“We’re winning,” he said. “We’re 5-0 and we haven’t had a 5-0 start in like 34 years. So whatever happens, happens.
“I’ve had success at every level except here, so going to the NCAA tournament – that’s one thing I want to do before I leave college. We’re winning and that’s the most important thing.”