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Matisse Thybulle wins Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award

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Matisse Thybulle is introduced before the Huskies' 71-52 win over Cal on Jan. 19.

The last piece of hardware Matisse Thybulle picks up as a Washington Husky is also arguably the most prestigious.

The senior took home the Naismith defensive player of the year award in Minneapolis this afternoon. He beat out finalists Duke freshman Zion Williamson, Virginia sophomore De’Andre Hunter, and Gonzaga junior Brandon Clarke.

The Naismith award will be on the shelf next to the back-to-back Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors that Thybulle picked up over the last two years. It will also be joined by the Lefty Driesell award that he picked up earlier in the weekend.

Thybulle led the country with 126 steals this season, surpassing Jason Kidd’s previous Pac-12 season record of 110. Williamson, Hunter, and Clarke combined for 134 steals between the three of them. His 3.5 steals per game this season was over half a steal better than the next closest player.

The 6.7 steals percentage that Thybulle had this year is the best mark of any player over the last three years and is the sixth-best number over the previous 16 years.

In the block column, Thybulle did not have quite the same advantage as he did with steals, but he still held his own against the other finalists. He finished the year with 83 blocks, good for 11th in the country. He is the only player in the nation to be in the top-20 in both steals and blocks this year. While Clarke was first with 117 blocks, Thybulle had four more blocks than Williamson and Hunter combined.

Although the award is not a career honor, Thybulle set quite a few defensive records during his time on Montlake. He passed Gary Payton in career steals in the Pac-12 with 331, ten more than Payton had. Thybulle also has three of the top five steal seasons in Washington history. His 126 steals this season would have been good for tenth all-time in career steals at the UW. Thybulle also tied Chris Welp’s Washington blocks record of 186 during the final game of his career.

Reach reporter Kyle Gehler at Twitter: @KyleGehler

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