Any time Washington has won under Mike Hopkins this season, it came with the caveat of letting teams linger before putting together a strong finish.
Kennesaw State wasn’t so fortunate.
Hopkins, about midway through the first half, tinkered with his lineup to find better match-ups. Those changes led to UW playing some of its most consistent ball of the year and running off to a 85-71 win Tuesday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“We figured out a lineup that worked and figured out what to do that was working,” junior forward Noah Dickerson said. “We just ran with it.”
UW (5-2) has now won three in a row all in a span of five days.
Fatigue aside, the Huskies have struggled to create separation in the first month of the season. UW entered the game ranked 174th nationally in scoring margin at minus-0.8 points.
It’d become a familiar formula. Opponents would hang around long enough until UW found the mix to pull away late.
KSU (1-6) actually held a 21-20 lead with 9:16 left until both teams started exchanging baskets. The Owls would call timeout, a move which gave Hopkins a chance to simplify a few things for his team.
Dickerson got it going with two free throws before star freshman guard Jaylen Nowell scored on a lay-up.
Both Dickerson and Tacoma native David Crisp scored consecutive baskets before the Huskies started to flex their muscles.
Crisp, starting with a 3-pointer, would score UW’s next eight points. He nailed back-to-back 3’s and two free throws for a 34-26 lead with 4:18 left.
Dickerson added two more free throws. After KSU scored for the first time in nearly three minutes, the Huskies reeled off 10 straight points for a 48-27 edge with 44 seconds left.
The half ended when Dickerson, who had 17 points and 6 rebounds by the half, threw down a dunk with eight seconds left for a commanding lead.
Dickerson scored a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds while shooting 8 of 9 in 24 minutes.
“It was a great stretch,” Hopkins said. “We were making shots, we were moving the ball, we were passing ... that was really exciting to see.”
UW shot 48.5 percent from the floor in the first half while holding KSU to 42.3 percent.
Once the Huskies were up by 24 points with 14:01 left, it gave Hopkins a chance to rest his starters and play his reserves.
Freshman forward Hameir Wright made the most of the extra time.
Wright, who was averaging 0.3 points in 5.8 minutes, finished with 12 points in 19 minutes. He was 4 of 5 from the floor, drilled all 3 of his 3-pointers and grabbed four rebounds.
“Energy and just being technically sound on defense and just play good basketball on the offensive end,” Wright said. “Just do what coach wants out there on the floor which is to be a second version of him.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark