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Matisse Thybulle on UW’s turnaround: ‘It felt like we were bringing Husky basketball back’

Washington guard Matisse Thybulle drives between WSU forward Robert Franks and guard Milan Acquaah. (AP)
LISTEN: UW hoops' Matisse Thybulle talks about his family and growing up in Sammamish

Guard Matisse Thybulle had perhaps the brightest outing of the night for the Washington men’s basketball team in their most recent game – a 80-62 win over Washington State – with 18 points and six assists. Just a few days after the Huskies’ win, the 6-feet-5 junior joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore to talk about the program’s impressive turnaround.

“I think the best part was that it felt like we were bringing Husky basketball back,” Thybulle said, “and it felt like the old games, where sellout crowds and the Husky-Washington State rivalry was back. It was a great feeling just to have all that support behind us. It got so loud at one point that I could barely think, so I don’t know what WSU was going through, but it was fun.”

Hop’s Hype: Inside Washington’s surprising turnaround season

Washington owns a 15-6 record and currently sits in third place in the Pac-12 at 5-3, already a dramatic improvement from a 9-22 finish in 2016-17.

The Huskies parted ways with head coach Lorenzo Romar after a 15-year tenure in Seattle and turned to former Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins in March 2017. Thybulle said the team was quick to embrace Hopkins and responded well to his energy – but the switch to a zone defense took some getting used to.

“Coach Hopkins, his personality makes it kind of hard for you not to gravitate towards him just because he brings so much energy to the table and everyone just feeds off of it,” Thybulle said. “So I’d say after our first team meeting, just about everyone bought in because he had us so hyped up and bought into his vision, and we couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

“It was weird at first (adjusting to Hopkins’ version of a zone defense) just because all the rules that apply to it are counter-intuitive to what you do in a normal 2-3 zone, so I think it took a little for guys to reprogram themselves to just have it be second nature. I think now that we’re all on the same page and we’ve all got it locked down, teams are having some problems with it.”

Thybulle says that of all the changes that have contributed to Washington’s improvement, he feels the focus on chemistry has had the greatest impact.

“It took us a little bit at first just to get used to the offense that coaches have us doing, and then once we got used to that, then we had to pick up on each others’ tendencies and what we do instinctively on the court. I’ve said it before, every game I feel like we’re getting better. And I continue to say that. Every time we get on the court together we just get a better feel for each other. I mean, I could close my eyes and tell you what David (Crisp) is going to do with the ball now, and honestly at this point, we could just give Noah (Dickerson) and Jaylen (Nowell) the ball and know it’s going to go in. The chemistry, and knowing what each other are going to do, has just gotten so much better.”