SEATTLE — Mattise Thybulle gave Washington a key offensive spark, but his defense might have been the game changer.
Thybulle hit three free throws to spark a late 18-2 run to help the Huskies pull away from Omaha 86-73 on Sunday.
Thybulle, a 6-5 junior guard, also used his lengthy wingspan at the top of Washington’s zone defense to add five blocks and three steals. He finished with 12 points and also was one of four Huskies with six rebounds.
“He just causes problems,” said Omaha coach Derrin Hansen. “And if he doesn’t steal one or block one, he doesn’t allow us to get the ball to where we need it to go. And, then that leads us to probably a rushed shot, or hurried shot, or one late in the shot clock. He does all of that for them and that’s vital to what they do.”
Omaha (1-8) took a 63-62 lead on Mitch Hahn’s deep 3-pointer from the top with 8:21 left, but Thybulle answered with three free throws and a layin to trigger the Huskies deciding spurt.
David Crisp scored 24 points, Noah Dickerson added 16 and Jaylen Nowell 14 for Washington (6-2), which shot 58 percent in the second half.
Zach Jackson had 28 points and Mitch Hahn added 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for Omaha.
After Hahn’s 3-pointer gave Omaha the lead, the Huskies answered with an 8-0 spurt as the Mavericks missed a pair of three-point attempts and then turned it over twice.
Thybulle triggered the run when he was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws. On the ensuing possession, Thybulle converted his own block into a layup at the other end. Crisp capped the run with two free throws to make it 70-63 with 6:09 remaining.
“It started with fouling on the three-point shot, so they got three at the line, and then we had two bad possessions,” Hansen said. “We turned it over twice and they got in transition.”
After KJ Robinson scored on a floater from the lane, the Huskies ran off 10 more consecutive points, extending the lead to 80-65 on a rebound basket by Sam Timmins with 2:49 left.
“We can’t control making and missing shots,” said Washington coach Mike Hopkins. “What we can just control on getting good shots. What we can control is how hard we play and how smart we play on defense. That’s where I was most disappointed for a long period, and then most proud of.”
Thybulle, who entered third in the NCAA with 3.6 steals per game, said the increased defensive intensity was the difference down the stretch.
“That’s what we were trying to focus on from the jump, but we just didn’t bring energy,” Thybulle said. “We figured it out in the second half and it got contagious. Guys just started being up and they had no answer for us.”
Washington extended its 42-39 halftime lead with an 8-2 run, going in front 50-41 on Crisp’s layin, but the Mavericks rallied within 52-49 on a jumper by Lamar Wofford-Humphrey.
Hahn’s 3-pointer gave Omaha its first lead of the second half at 58-57 with 10:11 remaining.
The Mavericks stayed close in the first half behind Jackson’s 17 points, which included three 3-pointers. Omaha also held a 25-16 rebound advantage over the Huskies, who had outrebounded their last two opponents by 17 per game.
Washington opened a 39-34 lead on Hameir Wright’s 3-pointer with 2:12 left in the half, but Jackson brought the Mavericks even with a 3-pointer and layin. Nahziah Carter’s 3-pointer put the Huskies up at the break.
Washington: It’s mid-term exam time for the Huskies. Washington is 6-0 against mid-majors, but lost their only two games against power conference opponents – Providence 77-70 and Virginia Tech 103-79. Upcoming games at No. 2 Kansas and home against No. 15 Gonzaga should show where the Huskies are under first-year coach Hopkins.
Omaha: After losing four starters from the team that advanced to the Summit League title game and won 18 games last season, the Mavericks are a work in progress during the non-rugged non-conference portion of their schedule. Road losses include Oklahoma, Louisville and TCU, with Kansas coming up in two weeks.
NO ZONE SURPRISE FOR HUSKIES
Washington’s zone defense has presented some problems for opponents this season, but ironically, the Huskies next opponent is Kansas, which defeated Syracuse 76-60 on Saturday. Hopkins has installed the trademark 2-3 defense used by Syracuse, where he was an assistant for 22 years. The Jayhawks should benefit from back-to-back games against the zone.
With its home facility being used for the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials, Omaha opened its season with seven straight road games, all losses. The Mavericks then picked up their first victory in their first home game over Drake, 75-73. They then headed back out with Washington the first of three more road games. In all, Omaha plays 18 of its 30 games on the road.
Washington: The Huskies face second-ranked Kansas in Kansas City on Wednesday.
Omaha: The Mavericks play the second of three straight road games at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org