The Huskies' 11th straight win came at a cost — they lost Noah Dickerson who suffered an ankle injury. UW plays at Arizona and Arizona State next week and it's uncertain if the all-Pac-12 forward will be available.
The Huskies won their 11th straight game — a 69-55 victory over UCLA — but they lost all-Pac-12 forward Noah Dickerson for most of the second half after he suffered a right ankle sprain.
After the game, coach Mike Hopkins wasn’t sure if Dickerson would return when Washington (18-4, 9-0 Pac-12) goes on the road this week for a pair of games at Arizona and Arizona State.
Here are three impressions on Saturday night’s game.
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THE BIG KIWI COMES THROUGH
Even before Dickerson went down, Hopkins used a big lineup of Dickerson and backup forward Sam Timmins for long stretches to combat UCLA’s towering front line.
When Dickerson got hurt, Timmins became invaluable largely because the 6-foot-11, 245-pound junior is the biggest and heaviest UW player on the active roster.
In the previous game — a 75-62 win against USC on Wednesday — Timmins logged just one foul in two scoreless minutes.
Against UCLA, the native New Zealander played a season-high 24 minutes and had a sensational performance with his father Brendon, a former professional rugby player, in the stands.
Timmins scored a season-high nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. He was 3 of 3 on free throws, which is no small feat for someone who entered the game shooting 33.3 percent (5 of 15) at the line.
On the defensive end, Timmins collected six rebounds (two offensive), blocked three shots and drew “M-V-P” cheers from the soldout Alaska Airlines Arena crowd when he stepped in and drew a charge midway through the second half.
Timmins said he’s been working with UW coaches for three years on that defensive play.
He also helped neutralize UCLA’s star freshman Moses Brown, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
If Dickerson can’t play this week, then obviously that puts a lot of pressure on sophomore forward Hameir Wright and Timmins.
Wright would likely continue to start, but it’s uncertain if Timmins would get the call to replace Dickerson. Hopkins could move guard Dominic Green into the lineup with Timmins coming off the bench.
Freshman center Bryan Penn-Johnson suited up Wednesday, but he was back in street clothes Saturday. Without Dickerson, the Huskies are short-handed in the post, but not sure how much Penn-Johnson could help them at this point considering he hasn’t played since Nov. 27 due to a lower leg injury.
UW’S DEFENSE IS SCARY GOOD
Hopkins suggested the Huskies played their B-game on Saturday and still they dismantled the top scoring team in the Pac-12.
The Bruins came into game tallying a league-best 82.5 points per game and UW held them to a season-low 55 points — 27.5 fewer than their average.
That’s pretty impressive considering UCLA scored 90 points against Arizona, 87 at Oregon in overtime, 98 against California, 92 against Stanford and 87 at Washington State.
Even in defeat, UCLA put up 78 points against North Carolina on a neutral court.
After falling behind 12-4, Washington choked out the Bruins with its stifling 2-3 zone defense. UCLA converted 2 of 7 three-pointers in the first half and was 2 of 8 in the second.
The Bruins were unable to generate offense in transition and finished with 13 fast-break points.
The Huskies were able to play good defense without fouling. UCLA attempted a season-low nine free throws and made five.
Once again, Matisse Thybulle led UW’s defensive charge.
For the second straight game, the senior guard finished with a personal-best seven steals — two shy of the UW and Pac-12 record for a conference game.
Thybulle was a disruptive force in the middle and was a big reason why UCLA committed a season-high tying 23 turnovers.
UW’S BALLHANDLING ISSUES AREN’T GOING AWAY
UCLA employed a 1-3-1 full-court press that gave Washington fits for most of the game.
Last week, Oregon used a similar press that frustrated the Huskies and nearly cost them a win.
In its last five games, Washington is averaging 17 turnovers. Some of the miscues are self-inflicted when UW players try to make an extra pass that goes awry.
But UW will need to find better answers to handle the press.
Hopkins has tried nearly everyone in the backcourt to break the press.
On Saturday, the primary ballhandlers were David Crisp and Jaylen Nowell while Wright and freshman guard Jamal Bey served as an outlet in the backcourt with mixed results.
Per Hopkins instructions, Nowell has a tendency to attack the basket whenever UW beats the press. The tactic didn’t work early against UCLA with Brown standing in the middle.
Not sure if Arizona has the personnel to apply an effective press full court for extended minutes, but Arizona State certainly does.