The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball Team returned home last weekend and gritted out a tough 67-63 win over UC Santa Barbara.
Just the other night, the Huskies traveled on the road to play #1 Gonzaga and lost a 81-79 heartbreaker on a buzzer beater.
Here are a few quick observations about the team…..
Hopkins 2-3 Zone Is Becoming More Effective
A huge positive from their game against Gonzaga was how effective the 2-3 zone defense was against the Bulldogs. The Huskies are fully committed to the zone on defense and it hindered Gonzaga’s ability to find a rhythm offensively throughout most of the game. The style of the 2-3 zone defense that Washington head coach Mike Hopkins likes to play, allows them to stay in every single game that they play in. It was able to slow down the Zags and frustrate them just enough to keep the Huskies close the entire game. In their game against UC Santa Barbara, they were able to hold their offense to 63 points.
Nahziah Carter Needs To Reassert Himself As The “Spark Plug”
One of the biggest attributes off the bench, earlier in the season, was the aggressive play of sophomore forward Nahziah Carter. He was the human “spark plug” for Hopkins and provided a much-needed boost when inserted into the game. As of late, that spark has been tempered a bit and the Huskies need Carter to find his way again. Against UC Santa Barbara, Carter played a total of 19 minutes and only produced 3 points to show for it. The other night against Gonzaga, Carter played 11 minutes total and came away with zero points. Nobody else on the bench provides the energy that Carter does and that is sorely missing right now.
The Need For A Consistent Shot Blocker
When looking at the Huskies defense on the interior, the need for a dominant and consistent shot blocker is evident. Often times, opponents are able to have their way driving the paint because there is no real threat of a shot blocker in the middle. While junior forward Sam Timmins and sophomore Hameir Wright are defensive minded players, they are not true shot blockers by design. The thought here is to get freshman center Bryan Penn-Johnson into the game more and have him emerge as that guy. He has a huge wing span and is naturally defensive minded. Penn Johnson can get a hand in the face of opposing players when trying to enter the paint.
Jaylen Nowell Is Truly An All-Court Player
Everyone already knew that sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell was a talented basketball player, but what is taking shape is his ability to score from anywhere. What put Nowell on the map last season, was his ability to operate so efficiently in the midrange game. Nowell can pretty much get any shot he wants when taking a couple of dribbles and pulling up from 5-10 feet. What has really improved is his ability to score from other areas of the court as well. Nowell has improved his outside shooting and currently has the highest FG% on the team at .573. He hit two clutch free throws against Gonzaga and his three-point shooting percentage is high at .438.
Freshman Players Need More Minutes
Earlier in the season, Hopkins said that true freshmen usually don’t make an impact until January, when conference play rolls around. During this past week, over the course of both games, the true freshmen played a total of 4 minutes and totaling zero points. The only freshman player to check into the game this past week was guard Jamal Bey. If the true freshman players are going to make an impact in January, then they have to already be involved during non-conference play in order to develop along the way. Penn-Johnson seems like an obvious choice to play more, with the need for more athleticism and a quicker body in the paint defensively.