Mike Hopkins says UW Huskies can’t let offense affect defense again in NCAA Tournament

Mar 20, 2019, 10:25 AM

Jaylen Nowell, David Crisp and the UW Huskies open the NCAA Tournament on Friday. (Getty)...

Jaylen Nowell, David Crisp and the UW Huskies open the NCAA Tournament on Friday. (Getty)


The UW Huskies are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, but second-year head coach Mike Hopkins’ ninth-seeded team comes into Friday’s matchup with No. 8 seed Utah State the underdog after going 4-3 over its last seven games heading into the tournament.

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The most recent loss came when Oregon knocked off the Pac-12 regular season champs for the second time in the span of a week, beating the Huskies 68-48 in the conference’s tournament championship game. It was a rough offensive showing for the Huskies, but Hopkins told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore that a mistake stemming from Washington’s poor shooting performance is something it can’t afford to make again if it hopes to move past the first round in the NCAAs.

“The first half I thought we did a really good job,” Hopkins said of last Saturday’s game against Oregon. “Our defense was there and we were down 2 and we didn’t shoot well, and they shot exceptionally well. What we did in the second half, we allowed poor offense to affect our defense. (Oregon) shot 11 for 17 from the field, they went to the foul line 17 times. It was a defensive breakdown, in my opinion. I felt like we allowed missing some shots, not playing good offense (to) affect our defense, and you can’t let that happen.”

While Utah State’s team shares some of the strengths of Oregon, including the presence of a shot-blocking center that could disrupt the Huskies’ offense, Hopkins said the majority of UW’s focus should be on getting back to playing the way it was when it won 12 straight in the middle of the season.

“Obviously you’ve gotta scout your (opposing) team … and you just got to make it simple in terms of what we’re trying to take away, but a lot of times you’re managing your own team’s mindset, energy, and making sure that they’re all together,” Hopkins said. “I know when we’re all connected that way and disciplined defensively, we’re a different team. This time of the year, it’s such a long season, there’s injuries, there’s all sorts of mental fatigue, physical fatigue, life fatigue. When you have a high level of energy and you’re playing together, it really becomes about you.”

It’s something Hopkins has taken from going to the NCAA Tournament year in and year out as a longtime assistant under Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse.

“I think the biggest thing that we had a lot of success (in) is we do what we do,” Hopkins said about what he learned while with those Orange teams. “…You gotta focus on what has got us here, and you’re not going to change it. You’re not going to put in all new offenses or defenses. You gotta do what you do, but you gotta do it better. I think a big thing with coach Boeheim was nothing really changed (during the NCAA Tournament).”

Or in a more easy-to-remember motto, “Keep it simple, stupid,” quipped Hopkins.

“Coach Boeheim at his best,” he said.

You can hear Hopkins’ full interview with Danny, Dave and Moore in the player embedded in this post, or you can download a podcast version at this link.

A look at Utah State, the UW Huskies’ opponent to open NCAA Tournament

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Mike Hopkins says UW Huskies can’t let offense affect defense again in NCAA Tournament