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Washington pulled off one of the rarest feats in college basketball and arguably the upset of the young season with a 74-65 win over Kansas in Kansas City on Wednesday night.
The Huskies, coming off a 9-22 season in which they lost the top pick in the NBA draft Markelle Fultz, stunned the Jayhawks with a combination of hot perimeter shooting and a stifling 2-3 zone that shut down Kansas’ normally proficient shooting and passing lanes.
And while it’s technically not Bill Self’s 11th home loss in 15 seasons at Kansas, the giant Jayhawk logo at halfcourt and the sea of blue in the stands made this a de facto home game.
It is undoubtedly a signature win for first-year Washington head coach Mike Hopkins, who took over this season after spending 22 years as an assistant coach at Syracuse. His only previous head coaching experience was during Jim Boeheim’s suspension in the 2015-16 season. He was expected to eventually take over for Boeheim in Syracuse before taking the Washington job.
Hopkins admitted to ESPN that he called up his friends on the Syracuse coaching staff for tips after the Orange lost to the Jayhawks on Saturday.
“I talked to their staff, that’s my extended family,” Hopkins told ESPN. “It was a great way to learn in terms of how we had to attack offensively and how we had to defend them.”
He praised his team for executing a game plan intent on taking away the strength of Kansas’ offense, its 3-point shooting. It worked, as the Jayhawks hit just 5-of-20 three-point attempts while Washington connected on 9-of-21 from distance. That shooting discrepancy was truly the difference in the game.
Four players scored in double figures for Washington, led by junior guard Matisse Thybulle, who hit 5-of-8 three-pointers for 19 points to go with four rebounds and three assists.
Lagerald Vick was really the only player to get anything going for Kansas, finishing with 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds. None of his points came on three-pointers.
The Huskies are officially ahead of schedule now after being picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 in the preseason. They’ll get another stiff test at home on Sunday against NCAA runner-up and 12th-ranked Gonzaga.