Following their first win in 3 1/2 weeks, the Huskies admit they still need to make improvements with just two nonconference games remaining before the Jan. 1 Pac-12 opener against Washington State.
Washington picked up a much-needed 92-86 victory over Western Michigan on Sunday, which snapped a four-game losing streak and allowed the Huskies (5-5) to get back to .500.
Here are three observations from the game:
STILL WAITING FOR WASHINGTON TO PLAY A LITTLE DEFENSE: It can’t be overstated, giving up 86 points and allowing teams to shoot 50 percent is a recipe for disaster. Consider for a minute, UW had difficulty dispatching a 3-7 MAC team at home and allowed Tucker Haymond to torch them for a career-high 28 points. Granted, Haymond – the Seattle native and former Garfield High standout – was motivated. But Washington’s defense is still very much suspect despite coach Lorenzo Romar’s claims that it’s improving. We’ll soon find out if the Huskies are better defensively when the competition kicks up a notch or two against Pac-12 competition. The Huskies are terrific blocking shots thanks to center Malik Dime (30) and guards Markelle Fultz (12) and Matisse Thybulle (12). And they’ve been good at times in rebounding. On Sunday, UW enjoyed a 35-26 rebounding advantage. Where the Huskies get in trouble is communicating to each other, playing cohesively and identifying open shooters. UW has limited just two opponents (Northern Arizona and Western Kentucky) to fewer than 45 percent shooting.
AS DAVID CRISP GOES, SO GOES THE HUSKIES: The 6-foot sophomore guard is a high-wire act in sneakers. He takes daring shots, often way behind the three-point arc and sometimes ill advised. When he’s on, Crisp is an electrifying force and fan favorite because – well, everyone roots for short guys. And Crisp is usually the smallest player on the floor with the biggest heart. The statistics say he’s a three-point specialist because he’s taken a team-high 57 three-pointers. And he’s shooting 43.9 percent on threes. The Huskies will need Crisp to be a zone-buster when opponents pack the middle to prevent Fultz from dribbling to the basket. Crisp has been a slow starter at times this season and waits to impose his will. Last week, he scored all 21 of his points in the second half against Nevada. He tallied 17 in the second half against Long Beach State en route to a personal best 26 points.
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GET EXCITED: The bench is dead, which is often reflective of the crowds at Alaska Airlines Arena. It’s one thing for fans to be swayed by the ebb and flow of the game, but UW reserves are held to a different standard. No one is suggesting the Huskies benchwarmers should to mimic the Monnmouth subs, who take sideline celebrations to a new level (see below). But the body language from Washington’s reserves hasn’t been very positive and that’s got to change.