Another home win, another season series sweep against a Pac-12 opponent and another sensational defensive performance by the Huskies and Matisse Thybulle.
Perhaps, Washington’s greatest feat is its ability to make a magical season look mundane.
Take for instance Saturday’s 64-55 win over Colorado, which felt inevitable, preordained and uneventful even.
There wasn’t a doubt in the world how this would play out.
And when it was over, Washington (22-5, 13-1) improved to 14-0 at Alaska Airlines Arena. Afterward, the Huskies were subdued as they clinched a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title – their first championship in seven years.
Here are three impressions from the game.
THYBULLE, THYBULLE, THYBULLE
UW football coach Chris Petersen made headlines two years ago when he said: “Stats are for losers.”
To give that quote some context, Petersen went on to say “We look at the film, we study what a team does good, what’s going to give us problems, how a team is playing at their best — and that’s what we pay our attention to.”
Petersen makes a good point.
And yet, it’s not enough to watch Thybulle on TV or a video clip to fully appreciate his destructive talents.
A better gauge is being inside Alaska Airlines Arena when you can feel the thunderous roar from a soldout crowd of 10,000 rise to rock concert decibels after Thybulle collects a steal or soars for a block that leads to a fast-break basket.
That’s when the Huskies and their defensive ace are at their best.
It’s obvious – like it was Saturday night – Thybulle was the star of the game and a big reason why Colorado finished with a season-high-tying 19 turnovers.
He led the Huskies with 17 points, six steals and five blocks despite foul troubles that limited him to just 26 minutes.
But it takes a closer examination of the stats – sorry Petersen – to truly appreciate what Thybulle is accomplishing this season.
With four regular-season games left and potentially nine in the postseason – why not dream? – Thybulle could obliterate two of the oldest Pac-12 records.
Thybulle has 96 steals and needs 17 to break the conference’s season record of 110 set by Jason Kidd at California in 1992-93.
With 302 career steals, Thybulle is also nearing the Pac-12 all-time record of 321 held by former Oregon State star and Sonic Gary Payton (1987-90).
Thybulle is so good, he’s created a new statistic to measure his impact: takeaways.
It’s a combination of his steals and blocks (62) and the UW guard with the 7-foot wingspan ranks first among Division I players with 158 takeaways.
And here’s one last statistic.
In the past 20 years, Thybulle is one of four players to average at least 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks in a season. The others include: Duke’s Shane Battier (1999-00 and 2000-01) Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel (2012-13) and Duke’s Zion Williamson (2018-19).
By all accounts, Thybulle has locked up a second straight Pac-12 defensive player of the year award and he’s a semifinalist for the Naismith national defensive player of the year award.
With a few more games like Saturday’s performance, Thybulle is making a late run at the conference’s player of the year award.
In 2012, California’s Jorge Guitterez became the only player to win the Pac-12 MVP and defensive player of the year award.
NO WRIGHT, NO PROBLEM
The Huskies were short-handed on the front line without sophomore forward Hameir Wright, who flew home to Albany, N.Y., because of a family emergency.
After the game, coach Mike Hopkins didn’t know if Wright would return for this week’s games at California and Stanford.
Wright’s absence moved guard Dominic Green into the starting lineup and provided more opportunities for backup forward Sam Timmins and reserve guard Jamal Bey.
Timmins, who fouled out in five minutes on Thursday, managed to avoid foul trouble that hindered Thybulle and Noah Dickerson in the first half.
Timmins made his biggest impact with three offensive rebounds as UW outscored CU 12-10 in second-chance points. He also had two blocks and two assists, including a nifty pass to David Crisp for a layup.
Hopkins has been a vocal supporter of Bey, who is averaging just 0.6 points and 0.6 rebounds in 23 games.
Still, Bey, a rangy 6-6 guard, showed a glimpse of his potential subbing for Thybulle at the top of UW’s 2-3 zone. He also drained the first three-pointer of his career.
SO WHAT’S LEFT FOR UW?
Washington travels to California for Thursday’s 8 p.m. game at Haas Pavilion. The Golden Bears are 5-12 overall and 0-14 in the Pac-12.
With a win, UW clinches the outright Pac-12 regular-season title.
It’s a long trip for the Huskies who play at Stanford at 1 p.m. Sunday before returning home.
Washington finishes the regular season with expected soldout games against Oregon State and Oregon.
If the Huskies win out, they would finish 17-1 and tie the best conference record since the league adopted an 18-game schedule in 1978-79.
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