SEATTLE — Washington’s zone defense changed the tone at the start of the second half and freshman Jaylen Nowell took care of the offense down the stretch.
Nowell scored 11 of his 21 points in the final six minutes and Noah Dickerson added 18 points and 11 rebounds as Washington held off UC Davis 77-70 on Sunday night.
“That’s a pretty good freshman,” said UC Davis coach Jim Les. “I thought we contested some of his late-clock shots. He gets to that mid-range, and he’s a little bit of a throwback, and he knocks those in pretty regularly. I’ve got to tip my cap to him, as a freshman making those plays, is pretty big time.”
UC Davis rallied from a nine-point deficit to go in front 57-55 on Joe Mooney’s 3-pointer, but the Huskies answered with a 9-2 run, going in front 64-59 on Matisse Thybulle’s layup with 4:44 remaining. Garrison Goode’s layup brought the Aggies within 67-65 with 1:52 left.
Nowell scored on back-to-back possessions to push the lead to 71-66 and Washington made 6-of-6 free throws from there to seal it. Nowell made 7 of 12 shots, made all six free throw attempts and added six rebounds to help the Huskies to 40-25 advantage on the boards.
“He just makes plays,” said first-year Washington coach Mike Hopkins. “He wants the ball.”
Noah Dickerson had 18 points and 11 rebounds, David Crisp added 13 points and Thybulle scored 11 for the Huskies (4-2). Chima Moneke had 23 points and Siler Schneider added 15 for the Aggies (3-2).
UC Davis entered shooting 44 percent from 3-point range, but was just 5 of 21 against Washington’s zone, which Hopkins brought with him after 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse.
“I thought their length, being able to get out to shooters and cover ground forced us to rush a little bit,” Les said. “And, we had a couple that were pretty good looks that we just didn’t knock down.”
Washington erased a 37-34 halftime deficit with a 14-2 run to open the second half. The Aggies shot 50 percent in the first half, but on their first eight possessions after the break, they missed four shots, including two 3-point attempts, committed two turnovers and missed 2 of 4 free throws.
“We just kind of realized that we weren’t bringing the energy we needed in the first half,” Thybulle said. “In the second half, we got a couple early and that just sparked a fire under us and got us going.”
The Aggies offset poor long-range shooting early against Washington’s zone by getting to the free-throw line for a three-point halftime lead.
UC Davis was just 1 of 5 beyond the arc, but was 10 of 12 from the line. Moneke had 13 first-half points for the Aggies.
Washington held a 17-11 rebound advantage in the first half, including seven offensive boards, but also committed 10 turnovers.
Washington: The Huskies have fared well against mid-majors, but lost to Providence (77-70) and Virginia Tech (103-79). A true test of progress made under first-year coach Mike Hopkins will be consecutive games at Kansas on Dec. 6 and home against Gonzaga on Dec. 10.
UC Davis: The Aggies, who made the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in school history, rely on defense. In their first four games, UCD was 3-0 when allowing less than 60 points, and was outscored 80-71 in its only other loss this season.
Nowell, a local Garfield High School product, has scored in double figures in each of Washington’s six games, including four of 20 or more and a high of 32 points in the season-opening victory over Belmont.
HUSKIES ZONE A ONE-TIME SHOT
“We haven’t seen much zone,” said Les, adding that all of the Aggies Big West Conference opponents play primarily man-to-man defense. “It was good for us to see it. I was pleased with the way we attacked it, we just needed a few more of those shots to fall.
Washington completes its run of three home games in five days on Tuesday night against Kennesaw State.
UC Davis hosts Northern Colorado on Wednesday in its first home game after a season-opening five-game road trip.
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