Noah Dickerson returned to form and Washington managed to overcome 19 turnovers while rolling to its 10th straight win. How long can the Huskies keep this up?
Perfect in January.
The Huskies finished the month unscathed following a 75-62 win against USC on Wednesday night in front of 9,121 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
In fact, Washington (17-4, 8-0 Pac-12) hasn’t lost in seven weeks while riding a 10-game winning streak – the most consecutive wins for UW since winning 11 in a row in 2014-15.
Here are three impressions from the game.
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LET NOAH EAT
We hadn’t seen Noah Dickerson play like this in a long time. Heck, you have to go back to the Nov. 20 Texas A&M game to remember when he was as dominant scoring and rebounding.
That night, the UW forward finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds in what was his best performance of the season.
Dickerson was nearly as good against a talented USC frontline that featured 6-11 center Nick Rakocevic, a Pac-12 MVP candidate.
Unlike UW’s previous opponents, the Trojans didn’t send very many double teams at Dickerson and he torched them for 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field, while going 7-for-10 from the free-throw line. He also had 14 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive glass.
It was a stellar performance for Dickerson who finished with 2 assists, 1 steal and a block in a season-high 35 minutes. He had just two fouls and picked up nine fouls from USC players, including five from Rakocevic who fouled out in the final minute.
Coach Mike Hopkins and Dickerson had been saying for weeks that opposing teams were making it their top priority to take away Dickerson in the post. UW successfully countered with a surprisingly accurate perimeter attack during its winning streak.
Dickerson remained patient while waiting for a chance to shine and USC gave him that opportunity.
UW’S TURNOVERS COULD HAUNT THEM
If not for a season-high seven turnovers, Jaylen Nowell would have had one of his most productive games Wednesday.
Despite the sloppy ballhanding, the sophomore guard did a little bit of everything and finished with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field and 2 for 3 on three-pointers, seven rebounds, five assists and tied his season-high with four steals in 34 minutes. That’s production.
But those turnovers are difficult to ignore. And it wasn’t just Nowell.
Matisse Thybulle had a brilliant performance that included 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting, 6 rebounds, a career-high tying 7 steals, 2 assists and 2 blocks. But he also had a season-high five turnovers.
And David Crisp lost the ball four times.
You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, but those three accounted for most of UW’s 19 turnovers that resulted in just 17 points for USC.
Two weeks ago, Oregon exposed Washington’s ball-handling weakness with a fullcourt press that gave the Huskies fits and nearly led to a loss at Matthew Knight Arena.
Few teams can apply pressure in the backcourt like Oregon, but you have to think that more opponents will employ the defensive tactic against the Huskies until they prove they can handle it.
WHEN WILL THIS END?
While writing about Washington’s 10-game winning streak, Matt Calkins said “there aren’t any signs it’s going to stop.”
Of course, it could all end 1 p.m. Saturday when the Huskies host UCLA (12-9, 5-3).
But it’s gotten to the point that any loss for UW would be considered an upset. Washington will likely be favored in their remaining 10 regular-season games.
Predictive websites such as Kenpom.com and RealTimeRPI.com suggest the Huskies will finish with a 16-2 record within the Pac-12. Both measuring tools predict losses at Arizona next week and Stanford on March 3.
Or Washington could continue this winning streak until who knows when.
The Huskies are tied with Gonzaga and LSU for the second longest active winning streak among major Division I teams in the nation behind Tennessee, which has won 15 in a row. (Hofstra has 16 straight wins.)
If Washington can navigate its next three games (UCLA, at Arizona and at Arizona State) without a blemish, then the Huskies would be 11-0 in the Pac-12 with seven games left.
At that point, you’re looking at a rather comfortable finish that includes road trips to Pullman and the Bay Area as well as four home games against Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Oregon.
Since the Pac-12 adopted an 18-game conference schedule in 1978-79, no team has finished with a perfect 18-0 league record. Stanford came close in 2003-04 and UW fans will remember the Huskies spoiled the Cardinal’s bid with an upset in the regular-season finale. And Arizona finished 17-1 a bunch of times.
But 18-0? It’s never been done.
And it’s way too early to think UW could do something like that. But if you’re asking when will UW’s winning streak end, then you’ve got to at least consider the Huskies may not lose another game this season the way they’re playing.