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Matisse Thybulle finding offensive confidence for Huskies

University of Washington guard Matisse Thybulle (4) passes in the second half. The Washington Huskies played the San Diego Torersos in a NCAA basketball game at Hec Edmundson in Seattle, Wash., on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.
University of Washington guard Matisse Thybulle (4) passes in the second half. The Washington Huskies played the San Diego Torersos in a NCAA basketball game at Hec Edmundson in Seattle, Wash., on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Matisse Thybulle just needed to find his confidence again.

After averaging 11.2 points per game last season, Thybulle put up just 5.9 points per game during the first seven games this year. The Huskies offense was lacking a consistent contributor beyond Jaylen Nowell and Noah Dickerson, something head coach Mike Hopkins talked about often.

Thybulle, always so reliable defensively, was one of the top options to fill the role. He needed to get more involved, Hopkins said. So Thybulle spent more time in the gym. He put shots up before practice. He put up shots after practice. His mentors always told him confidence comes from putting in the extra work.

It’s advice he took to heart.

“I found myself early in the season lacking a little confidence,” he said. “I realize what provides confidence for me is just putting in the work and I was able to see some results.”

Those results came in UW’s last two games. Thybulle scored 13 points in the victory over UC Santa Barbara and had 18 in the loss to the Bulldogs. He shot 6-for-11 from the field, including 3-of-6 from the 3-point line, against Gonzaga. Before those games, he hadn’t scored in double figures this season.

“He’s been putting in the work,” Hopkins said. “He’s been there really getting a lot of shots in. There’s no magic wand trick to success. It’s work and mindset. He’s an incredible player.

“We’re just lucky and fortunate that he’s playing at a high level emotionally and mentally and confidence-wise. And we’re finding him. We’re making it a point to make sure we’re finding him. We could actually find him a little bit more, too.”

Along with what he’s been doing offensively, Thybulle has been a force on defense. Last year’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Thybulle averages 2.6 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. His offensive contributions are a bonus, but a necessary one.

“We need him to be like that night in and night out,” Hopkins said. “Taking the ball to the basket, making plays, getting in transition, hitting 3s. He’s a heck of a ball player. Having a confident at both ends Matisse? We’re just a completely different team.”

UW still only has two players averaging double figures: Nowell (18.9) and Dickerson (16.8). But thanks to the past two games, Thybulle is now averaging 8.0. David Crisp is close to double figures with 9.1.

Even though the Huskies lost, they played one of their best games of the season against Gonzaga. A lot of that was getting other players involved, Hopkins said, and that stems from moving the ball well.

“In the second half, (ball movement) was exceptional,” Hopkins said. “The ball is touching everyone’s hands. We’re making the extra pass, which is what we preach in practice.”

Even after the strong outing, Hopkins still believes UW has another level. The Huskies were good against Gonzaga, he said, but they weren’t great. They’ll will be looking to find great before the non-conference season ends.

UW has four games remaining before the Pac-12 opener against Washington State. After facing Seattle University at home on Sunday, the Huskies will travel to Atlantic City to play No. 15 Virginia Tech in the Atlantic City Boardwalk Classic. The non-conference schedule then wraps up at home against Sacramento State and Cal State Fullerton.

And if the Huskies are going to put their best game on the floor during that stretch, odds are they’ll need Thybulle to do it.

“I’m happy to provide any way I can,” he said. “If one night it means I get to score, if one night it means I have six steals, that’s what I want to do.”

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Lauren Kirschman is the UW Huskies beat writer for The News Tribune. She previously covered the Pittsburgh Steelers for PennLive.com. A Pennsylvania native and a University of Pittsburgh graduate, she also covered college athletics for the Beaver County Times from 2012-2016.

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