Washington suffered a pair of humbling defeats in New York. We take a look at what went right and wrong for the Huskies.
Mike Hopkins never had a chance to slip out his jacket, loosen his tie and roll up his sleeves on Friday afternoon. After seven minutes, the Washington men’s basketball team were staring at a 10-point deficit that swelled to 31 before halftime.
When it was over, the Huskies suffered an embarrassing 103-79 loss to Virginia Tech in a consolation game of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden. The humbling defeat followed a 77-70 loss to Providence and in the two games, Washington held a lead for just 54 seconds.
UW’s trip to New York was reminiscent of a pair of 2K Classic defeats in 2013 when the Huskies lost 102-84 to Indiana and fell 89-78 to Boston College.
Washington (2-2) returns home with plenty of questions before Friday’s noon game at Alaska Airlines Arena against Seattle University.
Here are three takeaways from UW’s 0-2 showing in the Big Apple.
Jaylen Nowell doesn’t need to wait
The UW freshman had a stellar collegiate debut while scoring 32 points in the season opener. He played well at MSG – the biggest stage in basketball – while averaging 17.5 points in a pair of games. Nowell was chosen to the 2K Classic all-tournament team along with Providence guard Kyron Cartwright, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Providence forward Rodney Bullock, Saint Louis guard Javon Bess, Virginia Tech guard Justin Bibbs and Ahmed Hill. Nowell is averaging a team-high 19.3 points, which is tied for the most among freshman who play in a Power 5 conference. He ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring. Nowell averages 13.5 shots – the most among UW players. But he also shoots a high percentage (55.6). Nowell averages a team-high 35.5 minutes and if empowered, he could be among the stars in the Pac-12.
Point guard play and playmaking could be an issue
After Friday’s games, Washington (11.3) is tied for 282nd among 351 Division I teams in assists per game. The Huskies also average 14.8 turnovers, which ranks 231st. UW doesn’t necessarily have a true point guard among their top nine players. Hopkins, who stresses making the extra pass, is relying on a three-guard and four-guard lineup to create offense for each other. But the results have been mixed. Freshman Michael Carter III is a prototype pass-first guard, but he averages just 6.5 minutes – the fewest among players who have appeared in every game. In theory, David Crisp is best equipped to direct the offense, but the 6-foot junior guard has 11 assists and nine turnovers. And he’s embraced a role as a three-point specialist who has taken 26 shots behind the arc – 36 percent of UW’s 3s. Matisse Thybulle leads UW with 13 assists, which includes a career-high seven in Friday’s game. The junior guard also has a team-high 13 TOs. And at times Nowell brings the ball up court and initiates the offense. But it’s a lot to ask a freshman who leads the team with a 19.3 scoring average to find shots for teammates. On Friday, Hopkins turned to senior guard Dan Kingma, who made his season debut and finished with 8 points, including 2 3-pointers.
Good change-up, poor execution
After falling behind 13-8 to Virginia Tech, Hopkins momentarily switched to a man-to-man zone. However, the Hokies continued to torch the Huskies on the perimeter where the sank 15 of 22 three-pointers (68.2 percent). Virginia Tech beat the zone with crisp inside-out passing that led to open shooters in the corners and at the top of the key. Washington forced 22 TOs, but that was the only bright spot for defense that allowed Virginia Tech to shoot 60 percent from the field and sent the Hokies to the free throw line 36 times. Hopkins is trying to develop a defensive identity and he wants the UW players to gain belief and confidence in the newly implemented zone defense. But Friday was a setback after a 2-0 start. And the Huskies have got to find a way to limit opposing player who get red hot such as Bibbs and Hill, who finished with 30 and 23 points respectively. They combined for 10 of 12 three-pointers.