The transformation of Washington (16-4, 6-3 Pac-12) in the post-Lorenzo Romar era has been greatly credited to its defense. When former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins took the head job in Seattle, he brought the vaunted 2-3 zone with him.
For No. 25 ASU (16-6, 4-6), the zone defense has been its kryptonite all season long — Thursday was no different.
Sun Devil guard Mickey Mitchell was driving from the corner with less than 20 seconds to play in what would be a 68-64 UW win — ASU was down a pair as Mitchell went along the baseline, giving the impression for a second that he was going to try and tie the game with a reverse layup.
The paint was cluttered, though. Mitchell tried to kick the ball out to the perimeter, but the ball’s path was littered with white jerseys. Turnover. Ball game.
Just as the zone has done so many times before, it swallowed up its opponents last ounces of hope.
Hope was something that the Huskies were trying to extinguish early on. It took the Devils over 32 minutes to get their first lead of the game. The lead-changing shot came off of the fingertips of ASU’s leading scorer for the game, Kodi Justice, who finished with 16 points on 7-13 shooting.
In a theme that has seemed to define Arizona State lately, The team fell into a hefty first half deficit and then came out of the locker room firing, turning the game from a blowout into a nail-biter.
After the Huskies took a 37-27 lead into the break from a first quarter in which they led by as many as 13, it was ASU’s turn to respond.
Forward Romello White, who finished with a double-double (10 points and 14 boards, slammed home a dunk as ASU began its 12-2 second half run.
The Sun Devils have put teams away with similar runs, but Washington never let the game get out of hand.
One of the keys to the Huskies 2-3 zone success is guard Matisse Thybulle. He’s long, athletic and gets his hands on a ton of opponents passes. The Pac-12 steals leader added to his lead, corralling six against ASU.
The Huskies also got major contributions from their big-men. Forward Noah Dickerson racked up a double-double, and did so with both game-highs in points (21) and rebounds (16).
The Devils continue their trend of losing the first game of their Pac-12 weekend series this year; and they will look to extend their streak of winning the second game of those series’ on Sunday when ASU travels to Pullman to face Washington State at 2:00 MST.