SEATTLE – Eleven missed free throws and 40 percent shooting by Eastern Washington along with a career game from Washington’s Noah Dickerson led to a 79-69 loss to the Huskies on Sunday.
EWU began a 10-game road trip with a strong start. The first half featured 11 lead changes and seven ties, but Washington pulled ahead late in the first half and held off EWU in the second half.
Senior Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 20 points against the Huskies to move into fifth in school history for career scoring. Bliznyuk has 1,466 points in 105 career games.
“They played hard and I’m proud of the effort they gave,” said first-year EWU coach Shantay Legans. “When we go back and our staff looks at it, we’ll figure out how we can make our players better. We feel like we let them down a little out there tonight.”
Dickerson scored 28 points and pulled down 22 rebounds, both career highs, to pace Washington.
“He kicked our butt today,” Legans said. “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.”
Washington improved to 2-0 under first-year coach Mike Hopkins. The Huskies have won 13 of 14 against EWU.
Dominic Green, who missed all three of his shots in the 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.
Ty Gibson’s 3-pointer for EWU 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.
“We missed the front end of a one-and-one, we missed an open 3 and they hit a 3 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.”
David Crisp’s 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer – the Huskies’ first trey after eight misses from beyond the arc – put Washington up 40-34 at the half.
The Huskies’ game plan was to get the ball down low to Dickerson, and it worked.
“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.”
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 throws.
Legans said that the Huskies zone, which Hopkins brought with him from Syracuse where he was a longtime assistant, 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.”
EWU center Benas Griciunas and forward Mason Peatling each fouled out trying to contend with Dickerson, and reserve forward Jesse Hunt had four fouls.
“We played well defensively and our first-shot defense was good,” Legans said. “We held down Dickerson too, but he got a lot of putbacks, offensive rebounds and hustle plays.
“We have to make sure we come back and we’re tougher and better. We have to challenge our players and try to play without fouling – that hurt us. Our two starting post players fouled out, and our two backups were in foul trouble. We have to be smart about how we go about it.
“Stanford’s big fella makes free throws, is athletic and he makes shots from the perimeter. So we have to be smarter and tougher, and I have to put them in a better situation.”
Now for EWU, it’s on to Stanford for a Tuesday game.
“We’ll get in the gym tomorrow and get some shots up, and we’ll get ready to go against Stanford. It will be another great test,” Legans said.
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