Mike Hopkins wasn’t happy with Washington’s performance in the second half of Thursday’s 80-64 victory over Stanford.
The Huskies (12-4) improved to 4-0 in the Pac-12, remained undefeated at home and didn’t let the Cardinal get closer than nine points after the break. Still, after UW held Stanford (8-9, 1-4 Pac-12) to 33.3 percent shooting in the first half, including 0-for-6 from the 3-point line, Hopkins had high expectations.
The Cardinal shot 65.2 percent after the break but went 3-of-9 from beyond the arc.
“Like I told the guys at the end, I’m happy we won,” Hopkins said. “I’m happy we did a lot of really good things but my job is to correct those little things to become a championship caliber program. I was unhappy in the second half. I felt like we didn’t spring back on defense. I felt like the ball stopped too much on defense. I felt like the ball stopped too much on offense.
“We got to get better at that if we want to be a championship caliber team. A win’s great, but it doesn’t matter if you win or you lose. At the end of the day, you’re trying to play long periods of time of really good basketball.”
Despite UW leading by double digits for nearly the entire second half, Hopkins said he came away from the victory “a little disappointed.” It felt like the Huskies let their guard down, he said, pointing to Stanford scoring all 19 of its fast break points in the second half.
“We got to be better than that,” Hopkins said. “We got to be more disciplined than that.”
Both teams started the game slowly. With 13:57 left in the first half, the Cardinal took an 8-7 lead on a jumper from Bryce Wills. But that was the last time Stanford had an advantage. The Huskies quickly took over, going on an 11-0 run that put them ahead 18-8.
David Crisp started that key stretch with a jumper before Dominic Green hit the first of three 3-pointers. Sam Timmins and Jaylen Nowell then hit back-to-back jumpers to give UW the 10-point lead.
The Cardinal didn’t get any closer than eight points for the rest of the half and Hameir Wright’s 3-pointer with 57 seconds left gave UW a 37-24 lead at the break. Crisp nearly put the Huskies ahead by more but his 60-foot shot at the buzzer rimmed out.
The Cardinal came out hot in the second half, draining their first seven shots before they missed. But they struggled all night from beyond the arc, finishing 3-for-15.
“We put a lot of emphasis on (3-point defense) because that’s really what our defense is about, taking away the three,” said Nahziah Carter. “Lately, we really haven’t been up to that task but in practice, we really dialed in on it and I guess it really showed up tonight.”
With 10:33 left in the game, a jumper from KZ Okpala cut UW’s lead to nine points. It marked the first time the Cardinal pulled within single digits since the first half.
But Green responded with a deep 3-pointer to push the advantage back to 12 points. Carter then drove the baseline for a dunk to give UW a 58-44 lead with 7:48 remaining. Stanford never got back within single digits.
Nowell pointed to the turnover differential as a big key to the win. UW forced 18 turnovers and turned them into 24 points. Stanford scored just six points off six Husky turnovers.
“That was really something big that helped us,” Nowell said. “We just kept attacking on defense, making sure they were uncomfortable in the spots that they were normally comfortable in.”
Nowell led the Huskies with 22 points while Carter added 13, including 11 in the second half. Green finished with 11 points, shooting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Crisp was also in double figures with 10 points.
“It can be a different guy every game,” Carter said, “and we really believe that because at practice, some days one person is killing it and another day another person is killing it.”
UW got 32 points from its bench, and Hopkins said improved bench play has been vital to the Huskies’ undefeated start in conference play. With losses from Arizona and Oregon State on Thursday night, UW is now alone in first place in the Pac-12. The Huskies will have the chance to move to 5-0 with a victory over Cal on Saturday, a mark they haven’t reached since the 1983-84 season.
“Some guys might have off nights but now we got eight or nine really good contributors that can go in there and play well, impact the game well with energy and shots, whatever it may be,” Hopkins said. “That’s what we’re trying to build. That’s the hardest thing to do and the easiest thing to say.”