Ahead of the first ranked-versus-ranked nonconference matchup in Auburn Arena's history, The Plainsman posed questions for Kyle Gehler, Washington basketball beat writer for The Daily. Here's how he sees the action playing out Friday on The Plains.
1. What changed in the second half for Washington against Western Kentucky?
The most significant difference between the first and second half for Washington was getting the ball down low in the post and not shooting threes. After going 2/18 from behind the arc in the first half, the Huskies shot 3/7 from deep in the second half.
A 13-0 run to open the second half, led by an impressive defensive display from reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year Matisse Thybulle got the Huskies back in the game. Senior center, and Atlanta native, Noah Dickerson had 16 of his 18 points in the second half, including eight trips to the free throw line.
2. What were preseason expectations in Seattle?
The expectations are the highest they have been in a few years on Montlake. This is the most complete and experienced team Washington has had in a long time. They bring back their top eight leading scorers from last year and have three seniors in the starting lineup, Thybulle, Dickerson, and point guard David Crisp, with another senior Dominic Green being the main contributor off the bench.
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I would say most people in Seattle would be disappointed with anything less than NCAA tournament appearance.
3. What can Auburn do to slow down Noah Dickerson?
The key to shutting down Dickerson is getting him in foul trouble early as Western Kentucky did in the season opener. He played just six minutes and committed three fouls in the first half going up against projected lottery pick Charles Bassey.
Dickerson’s aggressive offensive style can often get him into trouble with the officials. Double teaming Dickerson might also be an option if the Dawgs shoot as poorly as they did in their last game from behind the arc.
4. On the flip side: how does UW slow down Auburn's potent offense?
The strength of the Huskies is their defense, coming in at number one in the Pac-12 in defensive efficiency last season. The 2-3 zone that coach Mike Hopkins brought with him from Syracuse has been a success in his brief tenure. Thybulle has emerged as a defensive star with 101 steals last season, second in the country.
Auburn's’ ability behind the arc will likely extend the zone out a bit, which could potentially lead to some easy buckets down low if Dickerson and Sam Timmins have any defensive lapses.
5. Game prediction?
The battle between Washington’s defense against the sharpshooting Auburn offense is well-documented, but I believe it will come down to the matchup between the Washington offense against the Tiger defense. So far this season Washington has struggled mightily to create offense outside of Jaylen Nowell and a few stretches by Dickerson.
I think Washington keeps it tight, but the inability to score late, paired with the hostile crowd, will give Auburn the 75-71 win.
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