SEATTLE – When perfected and run properly, first-year coach Mike Hopkins believes the Washington men’s basketball team’s newly installed 2-3 zone defense will be its “ice ball in a snowball fight” that tips games in favor of the Huskies.
Maybe so, but midway in the second half of Thursday’s exhibition, Hopkins abandoned the zone in favor of a frenetic fullcourt press and man-to-man defense that helped UW stymie the red-hot shooting Division II Saint Martin’s and erase a nine-point deficit after halftime.
The Huskies took control in the final four minutes to secure a 91-87 victory at Alaska Airlines Arena.
As auditions go, it was a mixed dress rehearsal for Washington, which begins the regular season Nov. 10 at home against Belmont.
As expected, junior guards David Crisp (18 points), Matisse Thybulle (18 points, three steals and three blocks) and junior forward Noah Dickerson (21 points and 10 rebounds) — UW’s returning starters — led the way offensively.
But few anticipated that the Saints would repeatedly torch the Huskies from downtown. Washington had difficulty finding and stopping Saint Martin’s shooters Luke Chavez (32 points) and EJ Boyce (22).
Washington had hoped to hold the Saints to fewer than 40 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent on three-pointers, but Saint Martin’s shot 45.9 from the floor and 52.9 behind the arc.
The Huskies fell behind 18-7 at the start before taking control and carrying a 46-40 lead into halftime.
Saint Martins went up 73-64 with 9:17 left when Hopkins ditched the zone and went to a man-to-man defense.
The Huskies went on a 20-9 run capped by Dickerson’s layup that gave them an 84-82 lead.
Washington led 89-87 when Jaylen Nowell (14 points) sealed the win with a short jumper with 11 seconds left. He forced a turnover on the ensuing play.