Green is a 46.0 percent three-point shooter in conference games, while Nowell has cooled off on offense in recent games.
Since dropping a three-pointer as time expired to beat then-No. 9 Arizona, Dominic Green’s life has changed.
In many ways the junior forward became an instant celebrity on the University of Washington campus and in the Pac-12 following a breakout performance in which he canned four big shots from downtown, including the dramatic game-winner.
After that shot, Green connected on just 1 of 11 three-pointers during the UW men’s basketball team’s three-game losing streak.
It was his worst slump of the season, but then a funny thing happened: Coach Mike Hopkins gave him his first start Saturday.
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“Dom is one of those guys, when he’s making shots he’s a difference-maker,” Hopkins said. “Sometimes you need to kick scoring off the bench so you have a legit scorer, but anything can happen.
“The biggest thing is that we were looking for answers.”
Green responded with another sensational shooting display while canning 3 of 4 shots from behind the arc. He finished with 11 points to help the Huskies to an 82-59 win over Colorado.
“At the beginning of the year I was stressing over what kind of shots I would take or what kind of shots I thought were good shots,” said Green, who averages 5.9 points. “They’ve given me the green light to shoot open threes, and they encourage me to shoot it. My mindset is that every one is going to go in, so when I shoot I think it’s going in.
“Before, if I missed I would think about the shot that I missed before, so that would affect me shooting the next one and the next one. So it’s more about forgetting about makes and misses and just about playing the game and having fun.”
Green was so good last Saturday, Hopkins isn’t sure if he’ll remain in the starting lineup or if freshman guard Jaylen Nowell will return to that spot. Nowell leads UW in scoring at 16.0 points per game.
“That hasn’t been determined,” Hopkins said. “We’ll see how practice goes these next couple of days.”
In his first season with the Huskies, Hopkins has performed a masterful job while transforming a 9-22 team that won just two Pac-12 games last season, into a squad that’s pushing for an NCAA tournament at-large berth.
Heading into Thursday’s 6 p.m. game against Stanford (14-13, 8-6 Pac-12), Washington (18-9, 8-6) is tied for fifth in the Pac-12 with the Cardinal with four regular-season games left.
Hopkins has made brilliant moves while installing a 2-3 zone defense that ranks first in the Pac-12 in three-point percentage (28.7) and steals (7.5 per game), second in points allowed (69.5) and tied for second in blocks (4.4) in conference games.
Since selecting starters in November, Hopkins hasn’t fiddled with the lineup.
Before Saturday, Washington had relied on the same starters in 25 of 26 games. Freshman guard Nahziah Carter started Dec. 20 against Gonzaga in place of Nowell, which was characterized as a disciplinary punishment for a relatively minor transgression.
Hopkins was noncommittal when asked if Nowell’s benching is temporary this time.
“You’re always just in there trying to find the right combination,” he said. “It’s been like that all year. Different guys have stepped up and have had big games.
“The unpredictability sometimes — I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing for some guys. Some guys, they think they are playing 20 minutes a game and all of a sudden they are playing three minutes a game. We’ve had some minute changes, but I watch practice and I see who is confident and who isn’t. You see energy levels. It’s constantly evolving.”
Green, a 46.0 percent three-point shooter in conference games (third in the Pac-12), stretches the floor and gives forward Noah Dickerson a little more room to operate inside.
“Noah should buy Dominic a Rolex watch like how offensive linemen have been given things (by) the quarterback,” Hopkins said. “He spaces the floor for a lot of guys and he gives openings and spaces, and that’s what you want, especially as a big guy. If they double, then you can make them pay.”
And yet, it seems counterintuitive for Washington, which ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring (69.9 points per league game), to bench its leading scorer.
Before the Huskies’ recent three-game losing streak, Nowell scored in double figures in 22 of 23 games, including a game-high 20 points during a 73-64 home loss to Stanford on Jan. 13.
However, during the three-game slide Nowell sandwiched a pair of nine-point outings at Oregon and against Utah around a 23-point performance at Oregon State.
And Nowell’s shooting has dropped off as well.
In the past five games, he’s shooting just 37.0 percent from the field.
“Jaylen’s an elite athlete and talent,” Hopkins said. “He’s 18 or 19 going on 45. He’s reminds me of that guy who comes in with flip-flops. He takes the flip-flops off, puts his shoes on and gets 50. He’s got that mindset. We’re asking him to do a lot.
“ … The game has changed. They are trying to shut down Jaylen. Now Jaylen has to trust passing it out.”
Nowell has excelled as a scorer and late-game performer, but now the Huskies are asking him to back up David Crisp at point guard and possibly come off the bench behind Green.
“Everybody wants to start, but he’s a team guy and he wants to win,” Hopkins said. “At the end of the day he’s going to do what’s best for the team.”