Preview: No. 25 ASU Versus Washington
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
SEATTLE, Wash. — With a 4-5 conference record halfway through the conference schedule, ASU (16-5, 4-5 PAC-12) looks to finish out the conference schedule more like of how they played in non-conference when they travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the Washington Huskies (15-6, 5-3 PAC-12) Thursday.
This weekday game of the series has been trouble for the Sun Devils all conference schedule, dropping each of the four weekday games plus the conference opener against Arizona.
“Our Goal is to get two wins in a week, you have got to get one (win) first so we have to focus going into the Washington series,” senior guard Shannon Evans said Tuesday.
“We’ve practiced harder this week than we have in weeks past, we’ve just gone at it these past two days,” coach Bobby Hurley said. “We are just trying to be more intense with how we compete and how we prepare.”
Despite a sort-of road win at Kansas, the non-conference slate for Washington was pretty underwhelming. A couple of bad losses to Gonzaga and Virginia Tech stand out, and besides the win in Kansas City (not Lawrence), exactly zero wins over power-six teams.
The Huskies picked it up in the conference schedule, notching wins at USC and at Colorado en route to a 5-3 conference record thus far, good for third in the PAC-12.
This is all under first-year head coach Mike Hopkins, who spent his previous 22 seasons at Syracuse assisting Jim Boeheim, replacing long-time UW coach Lorenzo Romar.
Under Romar in 2016-17, the Huskies went 9-22 and only 2-16 in conference play. That was with No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Markelle Fultz, running the show.
Michael Porter, projected top-five NBA prospect, was once committed to UW for the 2017-18 season, but decommitted from the program after the firing of Romar.
A big question coming into the week was how ASU was going to attack the zone defense Washington runs, something ASU has had problems with at times this year.
“They’re just committed to it, (Hopkins) has years of experience coaching it,” Hurley on the challenges of Washington’s zone defense. “They are very active and they have very good length. If you are weak with the ball and go into the heart of their zone, they are going to get deflections.”
“We just have got to be careful with the ball and attack the gaps,” Evans said.
Matisse Thybulle will most likely start his 81st consecutive game Thursday, averaging a career-best 11.3 points and a conference-leading three steals/game.
Freshman guard Jalen Nowell leads the Huskies in scoring with 16.7 points, followed by junior forward Noah Dickerson(14.2) and Junior guard David Crisp (11.8).
Trailing first-place Arizona by 4.5 with nine games left in the PAC-12 schedule, ASU’s hopes for the regular-season PAC-12 title look bleak, but a win in Seattle gets the Sun Devils on the right track to climb back up the standings.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at email@example.com or follow TJ on Twitter @TJMathewson.