Noah Dickerson finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds as Washington secured a 79-69 nonconference victory over Eastern Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday.
Noah Dickerson may or may not be the most talented player on the Washington men’s basketball team.
You could make a strong argument for freshman Jaylen Nowell, who scored 32 points in Friday’s season opener. And certainly junior guards Matisse Thybulle and David Crisp warrant consideration.
But there’s no denying that Dickerson is the most important Husky.
UW is 2-0 under first-year coach Mike Hopkins. The Huskies play Providence in the 2K Classic in New York on Thursday.
The 6-foot-8 junior forward provided proof to the claim Sunday after pouring in 28 points and grabbing 22 rebounds — both career highs — to lead Washington to a 79-69 nonconference victory over Eastern Washington.
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“The one thing I love about this team is, and I told them this after the last game, we have a different guy every night,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “Jaylen was the other night, Noah was tonight, but within our scheme of moving the ball, passing the ball — it could be David’s night. He’s got the ability to have big games. Matisse has the ability to have big games.
“But not too many teams have a guy you can go to in the post that can score down there. So yes he is exceptionally important, but it also works because you have four really good perimeter players moving the ball, passing the ball. Noah was great tonight.”
Nearly historic, in fact.
Dickerson finished two points away from joining Todd MacCulloch as the only UW players to register 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game. The former Huskies star had 30 and 21 in 1998 against Arizona State.
“I just wanted to win,” Dickerson said. “I didn’t know I had 28.”
However, Dickerson was made keenly aware of his rebounding totals by the UW coaching staff before the game.
“I only had four rebounds the last game and that’s not nearly what I want to do,” he said. “I came in focused on rebounding the ball and that was it. I just happened to see the ball go in a couple of times.”
Against an ample-sized Eastern Washington frontcourt, which featured 7-foot senior Benas Griciunas and 6-8 sophomore forward Mason Peatling, Dickerson converted 9 of 16 field goals while scoring nearly at will in the post.
And when he didn’t score, Dickerson drew a foul and connected on 10 of 14 free throws.
Griciunas fouled out after 14 minutes and Peatling was disqualified in the final minutes while EWU coaches voiced their displeasure at the officiating.
“Every single one of their bigs fouled out and so when you see that … I could tell they were having a hard time,” Dickerson said. “But when you get deep post position and guys on my team were throwing me the ball when it’s deep. It’s really hard.”
Washington needed a frantic finish to secure a comeback win in its opener. But on Sunday in front of 5,609 at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies took a 40-34 lead into halftime and never allowed the Eagles to get any closer than four points in the second half.
Before intermission, Dickerson had 20 points and 11 rebounds to tally his seventh career double-double.
“Noah said to the guys at halftime, last year we weren’t able to come out in the second half and maintain our leads or even push our leads further,” Thybulle said. “And that was one of our biggest downfalls. Learning to finish games has been one of the biggest things we’ve taken from last year and we’re trying to show it this year.”
Eastern Washington (1-1) cut UW’s lead to 52-48 and Dickerson answered with a layup that put the Huskies up by six with 9:24 left and began 16-10 run.
Dickerson finished the spurt with his final basket at the 3:38 mark and UW led 69-58.
“If he stays out of foul trouble and stays on the court, it makes our whole team more efficient because when we get the ball to Noah other teams — they have to respect it,” Thybulle said. “Whether it’s to send a double team or they’ve got to help down, it makes it easier for all of the guards.”
Thybulle scored 15 points, Crisp added 11, including three three-pointers, and Nowell finished with 10.
The Huskies led 40-29 in rebounding and held Eastern Washington to 40 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent (8 of 24) on three-pointers.
Bogdan Bliznyuk finished with 20 points and Luka Vulikic had 10 for the Eagles (1-1).
Washington improved to 2-0 before a pair of games this week at New York’s Madison Square Garden in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Hopkins said. “We just have to keep getting better and not be comfortable. We can’t be comfortable with wins. It’s got to be the focus of how we can get better.”