No. 20 Washington set for home debut vs. Mount St. Mary's
Coming off a signature win over then-No. 16 Baylor, the No. 20-ranked Washington Huskies make their 2019-20 home debut Tuesday against Mount St. Mary's.
Washington (1-0), the reigning Pac-12 regular-season champions, rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half Friday in Anchorage, Alaska. Although Tuesday's contest is the Huskies' first at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, it will not be their first with a home-game feel.
"This crowd was ecstatic, you couldn't hear plays and we were out there almost deaf," Nahziah Carter told the Seattle Times of the pro-Washington crowd against Baylor.
The partisan audience had particular reason to come alive with the veteran Carter -- the only returning player from last year's NCAA Tournament lineup to have played significantly last season -- working well with blue-chip freshmen recruits Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart.
McDaniels scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, while Stewart's baby hook in the paint gave Washington the lead for good in the closing moments.
Washington's aggressive, 2-3 zone defense, a signature of coach Mike Hopkins, succeeded both in forcing contested shots and creating takeaway opportunities. How the Huskies might regroup defensively after losing Pac-12 career steals leader Matisse Thybulle got an early answer from Jamal Bey.
The sophomore guard, who played sparingly a season ago, came away with a pair of steals in Friday's win. With his play in passing lanes on the perimeter, and Hameir Wright blocking five shots on the interior in the opener, Washington's zone again looks to be one of the more stifling defenses in the West this season.
Mount St. Mary's (1-1) will try to solve it with an offense that appears much improved from a season ago.
The Mountaineers ranked No. 326 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency a season ago, per KenPom.com advanced metrics. Mount St. Mary's shot just 31.3 percent from behind the 3-point line, which at 328th ranked as one of the worst averages in Division I basketball.
That's an especially tough hurdle to climb against a defense that thrives on forcing bad looks from long range, as is the M.O. of Washington's zone.
Vado Morse will play a central role in improving the Mountaineers' scoring. He shot 3 of 8 from deep in a competitive, season-opening loss to Georgetown.
Mount St. Mary's took a 12-point lead into halftime against the Hoyas, but gave up 56 points in the second. Morse and Jalen Gibbs scored 18 and 19 points respectively in the loss.
Malik Jefferson posted a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday in a win over Div. III Gettysburg. The win sends Mount St. Mary's on its way for a four-game road swing spanning 10 days and criss-crossing the country.
The Mountaineers travel to Lamar, UAB and finally Kentucky before returning home to host Utah Valley on Nov. 26.
"Everyone's really excited about this season," Mount St. Mary's coach Dan Engelstad said before the season opener. "It's a group that's really connected and focused on growing together; developing what's important to our program.
"All that work allows us to be more competitive this season," he added.
--Field Level Media