Noah Dickerson leads the comeback victory while scoring 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half. Jaylen Nowell added 17 points and David Crisp chipped in 13 and seven assists.
It wasn’t always pretty, but No. 25 Washington pulled away from a shorthanded and gritty Western Kentucky team in the final minutes for a 73-55 victory in Tuesday’s season opener at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Here are three takeaways.
HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS SPARK COMEBACK
Down 36-27 at the break, the Huskies outscored the Hilltoppers 46-19 in the second half.
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It was a dramatic turnaround for a UW team that allowed WKU to go on a 17-0 run to close out the first half.
The difference? Washington made a point of emphasis to close out with purpose on Hilltoppers shooters Jared Savage and Taveion Hollingsworth who combined to connect on 5 of 8 three-pointers in the first half. As a team, WKU was 5 of 10.
In the second half, the Hilltoppers were 0-3.
Of course, Matisse Thybulle plays a major role in UW’s perimeter defense. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year finished with six blocks, six rebounds and one steal to go along with nine points.
The Huskies also did a good job inside against WKU center Charles Bassey, a 6-11 freshman who is projected to be a NBA draft lottery pick next summer. The trio of Noah Dickerson, Sam Timmins and Hameir Wright made life miserable for Bassey, who scored 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting. UW outscored WKU 34-22 in the paint.
AS DICKERSON GOES, SO GO THE HUSKIES
Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell carried Washington in the first half while scoring 11 of his 17 points.
But the Huskies are at their best offensively when Dickerson, their All-Pac-12 forward and last season’s leading scorer, is carrying the load offensively.
Saddled by foul trouble, he scored just two points on 1-for-1 shooting in fewer than six minutes in the first half.
Despite efficient shooting from Nowell, it was no surprise UW’s offense struggled against WKU’s 2-3 zone defense. Without Dickerson inside, the Huskies hoisted and missed a slew of three-pointers. They were 2 of 18 behind the arc before the break.
When Dickerson got on track in the second half, the Huskies sprinted away from the Hilltoppers. The 6-8 forward scored 8 of 10 points during a decisive run, including a layup that put UW up 60-50 with 6:27 left.
Dickerson displayed tenacity and nifty footwork inside while racking up 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half. He also drew several fouls on Bassey, who fouled out in the final seconds.
BETTER IN THE TROUBLE AREAS
Not sure if the Huskies are ever going to be a rebounding juggernaut, but they were more than capable on Tuesday while winning the battle of the boards 39-33.
More impressively, UW gave up just seven offensive rebounds to Western Kentucky while snagging 12 offensive boards.
And even better for the Huskies is the fact that the rebounding numbers were evenly distributed. Thybulle, Dickerson and Sam Timmins each had six. Dominic Green collected four while David Crisp and Nowell each had three. Every Husky who played snagged at least one rebound, which bodes well for a team that struggled in this department at times last season.
And speaking of areas of concern, the Huskies managed just 11 assists on 26 field goals, which suggest they still play a lot of 1-on-1 ball.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing because Nowell and Dickerson — and Crisp, at times — don’t need much help to get a good shot. But everybody else are reliant on movement, passing and unselfish teamwork for their offense.
To that end, Crisp often bears the brunt of the responsibility for initiating the offense and he finished with an efficient 7 assists and 1 turnover performance while adding 13 points.
After committing 19 turnovers in last week’s exhibition win over Division II Seattle Pacific, Washington had just eight on Tuesday.