Dickerson leads UW past EWU, 79-69

Noah Dickerson scored 28 points and pulled down 22 rebounds, both career highs, to pace Washington to a 79-69 win over stubborn Eastern Washington

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SEATTLE — The Washington Huskies’ game plan was to get the ball down low to Noah Dickerson. It worked to perfection.

Dickerson scored 28 points and pulled down 22 rebounds, both career highs, to pace Washington to a 79-69 win over stubborn Eastern Washington on Sunday.

Washington improved to 2-0 under first-year coach Mike Hopkins, the longtime Syracuse assistant. The Huskies have won 13 of 14 against their in-state rival.

“We need to get Noah Dickerson the ball,” Hopkins said. “He’s one of the best low-post players in our league for sure, and I don’t know how many guys are as good as him in the country. He’s making his foul shots, which is big. We’re committed to getting him the ball. When you have a guy that you can get the ball to and create double-teams, it just opens it up and makes it easier for everybody else. He had a great game.”

Dominic Green, who missed all three of his shots in a scoreless first half, hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Washington up by 10 with 16:32 remaining. Neither team scored again until the 12:29 mark when Jesse Hunt’s 3-pointer pulled the Eagles within 48-41.

“It was a 10-point game for a long time, but we weren’t getting the rebounds that we had to get,” Hopkins said. “There were plays, when you get to a game like that, it’s 10, you have to get those balls, because now we can get in transition. You can’t just think it’s over, or don’t let them stay in the game. You’ve got to learn how to put teams away.”

EWU’s Ty Gibson’s 3-pointer made it 52-48, but the Huskies gradually extended the lead, going up 62-51 on Mattisse Thybulle’s 3-pointer with 7:37 left.

Bogdan Bliznyuk had 20 points and Luka Vulikic scored 10 for Eastern Washington (1-1), which made just 10 of 29 second-half field-goal attempts. The Eagles also missed 11 of 28 free-throw attempts.

Eastern Washington coach Shantay Legans said that the Huskies zone, which Hopkins brought with him from Syracuse, presented problems.

“Their zone bothered us and it showed,” Legans said. “We didn’t turn the ball over, but we didn’t get great shots like I thought we would.”

Thybulle added 15 points and David Crisp 11 for the Huskies. Dickerson’s previous career bests were 27 points against USC and 17 rebounds vs. Seattle, both last season.

“We just had a good game plan,” Dickerson said. “We wanted to play inside and out, because it opens up the lanes for everybody else, the driving lanes and get shooters open shots. They came to me early and they just had fun with it and kept going with it.”

Eastern Washington center Benas Griciunas and forward Mason Peatling each fouled out trying to contend with Dickerson, and reserve forward Jesse Hunt had four fouls.

“He kicked our butt today,” Legans said of Dickerson. “He went 20 and 20 and that’s hard to do in a college game. He did it and he got seven offensive rebounds. He was unbelievable. He was the best player on the floor today.”

Crisp’s 3-pointer at the buzzer — the Huskies first after eight misses from beyond the arc — put Washington up 40-34 at the half. Dickerson, a 6-8 junior forward, had 20 points in the first half, making 6 of 7 from the field and 8 of 10 free throws, along with 11 of Washington’s 19 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Washington: The Huskies are a work in progress under Hopkins, who has installed the trademark Syracuse zone defense. Freshman guard Jaylen Nowell starts and Michael Carter III, another freshman guard, is a key reserve. Nowell had 32 points in Washington’s 86-82 opening win over Belmont, and 10 against Eastern Washington.

Eastern Washington: The Eagles also have a new head coach, Shantay Legans, an assistant the previous eight seasons. Non-conference road opponents include Stanford, UNLV and Utah.

TURNING POINT

After cutting the lead to 52-48, Eastern Washington missed several opportunities. “We missed the front end of a one-and-one, we missed an open three and they hit a three and that’s a wrap,” Legans said. “It’s a make-or-miss game. You make them, you win, you miss them, you don’t.”

LEARNING TO FINISH

Washington finished 9-22 last season and went 2-16 in the Pac-12 Conference, ending the season with a 13-game losing streak. In several games, the Huskies saw second-half leads slip away. “Last year, we weren’t able to come out in the second half and maintain our leads, or push our leads farther,” Thuybulle said. “That was one of our biggest downfalls. Learning to finish games has probably been one of the biggest things we’ve taken from last year, and we’re trying to show it this year.”

UP NEXT

Washington faces Providence in the 2K Classic in New York on Friday, and then plays either St. Louis or Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Eastern Washington’s game against the Huskies was the first of 10 straight road games. The Eagles are at Stanford on Tuesday.