The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball team returned home to Alaska Airlines Arena for their home season opener against Mount St. Mary’s.
In the end, the Huskies were able to break the game open towards the end of the second half, en route to a 56-46 victory, and improve their record to 2-0 on the season.
In the first half, the Huskies got off to a real slow start and found themselves down 6-2 at the 15:14 mark. Was it a possible hangover from the Alaska trip?
Shooting-wise, the Huskies started the game 2 for 12 from the field and couldn’t buy a basket for nearly the first nine minutes of the half.
The Huskies appeared a bit sluggish in getting up and down the floor and were trying everything they could to find a rhythm offensively.
“They got 10 points off of turnovers in the first half, which was big. I felt like in the first half, we took too many quick shots. We weren’t patient enough, the ball stopped,” Washington head coach Mike Hopkins said.
At the 6:45 mark in the first half, both teams finally eclipsed the double digits mark, with Mount St. Mary’s leading the Huskies 11-10.
Towards the end of the half, the Huskies started to gain their footing offensively by feeding true freshman forward Isaiah Stewart in the paint.
Defensively, Stewart was a force inside with blocking shot after shot, letting the Mountaineers know that driving the paint would be met with resistance.
Neither team could get fully going offensively and heading into halftime, the score was 21-21. The sluggish start for the Huskies never went away.
The Huskies were completely out of rhythm and couldn’t get any continuity going to separate themselves from the Mountaineers.
Leading the way for the Huskies in the 1st half was Isaiah Stewart who finished with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 blocks. True freshman forward Jaden McDaniels only had 3 points of his own, from a three-pointer.
As a team, the Huskies were only shooting 38% from the field in the first half, and only 2 for 9 from behind the arc, which was stunning.
Going into the locker room, Washington head coach Mike Hopkins needed to find a way to implore the guys to play at a faster pace.
“So I just told them, I just want you to compete. There’s three things you’ve got to be able to do: play hard, play smart, and play together. I didn’t feel like we played hard in the first half. We had to play harder. We had to compete. I felt in the second half there was more of an uptick,” Hopkins said.
At the start of the second half, the Huskies came out hot when junior forward Hameir Wright made a free throw and sank a three ball.
The 4-0 run may not seem like much, but in a game where both teams were struggling to score, it gave the Huskies some positive momentum.
“We were moving the ball, playing for each other, hyping each other up, not caring who gets it,” Wright said.
Defensively, the Huskies got after it more aggressively, with some early traps against the Mountaineers, trying to speed them up.
“Our defense created our offense. Once we got that rhythm it just stayed with our offense. We just have to get that earlier in the game.” Junior forward Nahziah Carter said.
As a collective team, the Huskies played with an sense of urgency and with more force, during the first part of the second half.
Just when the Huskies were finding their way, Mount St. Mary’s stormed back with an 8-0 run of their own, and took a 34-33 lead with 11:23 left in the game.
It was just one of those nights where the Huskies were flat pretty much the whole game and needed to grind out the game down the stretch.
The Huskies would answer back with a 7-0 run of their own and take a 40-34 lead with 9:23 left. Junior forward Nahziah Carter did his own impression of “I believe I can fly” with his thunderous dunk, that ignited the crown and gave the team life!
“That’s all I ever try to do. Definitely. Glad to have given a highlight to our fans for people to watch, but we definitely needed a boost towards the end of the game, and I’m just happy that I was able to do that,” Carter said.
Down the stretch the Huskies got some critical production from junior forward Hameir Wright, who continuously made the right reads with shooting and finding the open man.
“I think he is the most important player to our team,” Washington head coach Mike Hopkins said after the game.
The Huskies made enough plays down the stretch to hold off the Mountaineers and win the game by double digits.
It wasn’t pretty, and the Huskies will definitely have to play much better going forward as they face stiffer competition.
The Huskies were led by Isaiah Stewart who finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks and was a dominant force on both sides of the ball.
Mount St. Mary’s sophomore guard Vado Morse led the Mountaineers with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists on the night.
With the win tonight, Hopkins recorded his 50th career victory as the Washington head coach, becoming1 the second fastest coach to accomplish 50 wins in school history.
Next up for the Huskies is the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday, November 16th at 2:00 p.m. PT, against the Tennessee Volunteers in Toronto, Canada.
WASHINGTON VS. MOUNT ST. MARY’S FINAL BOX SCORE
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