The Washington men’s basketball team’s 80-64 win over Stanford was the latest in a string of games where the perimeter offense took precedence over the inside-out style that was heavily relied upon a year ago.
In their first win against the Cardinal in almost three years , the Huskies (13-4, 4-0 Pac-12) were clicking from start to finish, shooting 52 percent from the field and getting four players in double figures. Of the team’s 80 points, 36 of them were in the paint. Along the way, it became readily apparent that this Washington team is a much smarter and more versatile group than the one a year ago.
“I feel like every game we’re coming together more as a team,” sophomore Naz Carter said. “More passes, more assists, more poise.”
Carter had 13 points, 11 of them in the second half.
The Huskies came out firing from the outside, but did so intelligently, rarely forcing up bad contested looks. The ball movement was crisp (no pun intended) and precise, leading to open looks for shooters like senior Dominic Green, who made two threes in the first eight minutes.
Good spacing seemed to be of paramount importance as well, with opportunistic driving lanes opening up frequently for scorers like sophomore Jaylen Nowell, who led the UW with 22 points. Senior Matisse Thybulle was selective, but aggressive offensively, most notably on a drive with 3:30 left in the game, when he caught the ball above the three point line, sized up his man, and had a clear driving lane to explode to the rim for the dunk.
The UW was also deadly in transition all game, registering 24 points off 18 Stanford turnovers, as well as nine fastbreak points. On a play barely two minutes into the second half, Thybulle came up with one of his five steals, immediately threw it up ahead to senior David Crisp, and Crisp finished with the smooth double-clutch reverse layup.
Senior Noah Dickerson, once the focal point of the Huskies’ offense, has taken a much smaller role the past month, and Thursday night he played only 11 minutes and took only two shots. But still, in his limited time on the floor, he was still double-teamed at times, the Cardinal showing respect to the way he’s performed in the past and the way Mike Hopkins’ offense used to function.
“The defense is designed to do what? Stop him,” Hopkins said. “He’s the kryptonite to defenses, he can get guys in foul trouble, he’s unbelievable in the post. But foul trouble hurt, the other guys were playing good, and we felt like we needed to keep that defense rolling.”
Dickerson may once again become the core of the offense once the final stretch of the regular season rolls around, but for now, Washington is playing a different way, and it’s paying dividends so far in Pac-12 play.
Reach reporter Chris Angkico at email@example.com. Twitter: @chrisangkico
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