After a group of geographically oriented opponents presented tougher-than-expected challenges, the Washington men’s basketball team face what is set to be their toughest test Thursday at 8 p.m. against Wyoming to conclude. a four-game home game.
The Cowboys (2-0) scored 85 points in each of their first two games, including a 28-point win over Detroit Mercy and a 30-point loss to Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
“Wyoming are a very good team,” said UW coach Mike Hopkins, who noted Wyoming converted 17 of 42 three-pointers this season. “They’re a better offensive team than (the teams we’ve faced). They score. They shoot a lot of threes. They take 25 threes per game. It will be a different kind of game plan.
Washington (2-1) allowed teams to connect on 18 of 53 three-pointers (34%), which seems to be a cause for concern given that UW’s 2-3 defense is based on the stopping the perimeter attack of the adversaries.
But dig a little deeper and the Huskies have made measurable progress on the defensive end.
In a 71-64 season opener loss to northern Illinois, UW gave up 12 of 23 three-pointers, including six to NIU sniper Trendon Hankerson, who finished with 28 points.
But in the last two games, UW’s opponents are 6 of 30 downtown.
Washington held northern Arizona 4 of 12 from long distance in a 73-62 win while Texas Southern connected just 2 of 18 from deep in a 72-65 UW win on Monday.
Spurred on by their all-round press, the Huskies rank first in the Pac-12 with 30 interceptions while four UW players are among the conference’s top 14 for steals. Daejon Davis and PJ Fuller are co-leaders with seven interceptions, Terrell Brown Jr. is tied for fourth with five while Jamal Bey is tied for seventh with four.
Admittedly, the Huskies have gradually improved defensively, but a team that incorporates seven newcomers and three new starters still struggles on offense where they rank last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (33 , 9%) and three- percentage points (26.4%).
According to KenPom, UW ranks 333rd nationally while shooting 33.3% on shots inside the arc.
“The first game, I felt a little stressed,” Hopkins said. “Like everyone wanted to do well and that’s when you shoot badly. Everyone was trying to do it themselves. It’s like having a new dance partner. You need to gain confidence and rhythm with each other.
“For Game 2, we only had one day of preparation, so a little more bench. We played a very good defense. The little queue came in and did what they did. We took free kicks at the end. And for the game on (Monday), I felt our offense had improved a lot. We shared it. We spaced it out. We made the extra pass. And that’s how we’re going to win.
It’s too early to make definitive statements on Washington, who finished 5-21 last season and 11th in the Pac-12 at 4-16.
Yet Brown was one of the first to stand out.
The senior goaltender who transferred from Arizona is fifth in the Pac-12 in scorers (17.7 points) and fourth in assists (4.3).
Hopkins compared Brown to former Husky star Jaylen Nowell, the 2019 Pac-12 Player of the Year – able to pick up games at the end with his ability to score, shoot fouls and make plays for. his teammates.
“He’s pretty damn good,” he said. “He can score. He can get a bucket. … He can play the right game. He’s a hell of a player. Daejon makes great plays at the end of the shot clock. And when you have two guys who are really good ball handlers and makers, you stand a chance. “
With the game in play Monday, the Huskies gave the ball to Brown, who responded with 20 points on a 7-for-12 shot. He also had all nine UW assists.
“I’m fine with that, but whoever made it is going to end the game for us,” Brown said when asked if he was comfortable being closer to UW. “If Daejon is successful, I have no problem giving him the ball. PJ, Emmitt (Matthews Jr.), Langston (Wilson), Jamal or whoever it is. They can all score. … But I’m comfortable with it.
“I’m comfortable with him too,” Davis said with a smile.