Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell shuffled his feet and tripped a little over his words as he looked for the right way to explain the role he played down the stretch of Washington’s 77-70 victory over Colorado on Saturday night.
Nowell was key for the Huskies in the final minutes, hitting two jumpers in the paint and adding a foul shot during the 8-2 run that allowed UW to pull away for good. But when asked about his impact, he was hesitant to take credit.
Instead, he shifted the praise to the Huskies’ seniors.
“They still took over being the leaders we needed as the veterans,” Nowell said. “They just put it upon me to do the scoring. At the end of the day, I just did the scoring. They just told me to get going.”
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UW led the Buffaloes by as many as 15 points early in the second half. But as Colorado chipped away at the advantage, eventually pulling within one point, Nowell said it was the seniors who made sure the Huskies stayed poised.
“Some of us young dudes, we tend to get riled up when those kind of things happen,” Nowell said. “They just all came together and said, ‘You know what? This has happened before.’ They’ve been through it. They just told us to relax and keep playing the game we’re playing.”
Senior point guard David Crisp has been essential to UW’s 3-0 start in Pac-12 play. The player head coach Mike Hopkins has called the heart and soul of the Huskies is shooting 67.8 percent from the 3-point line and averaging 18.7 points over the past three games.
After the victory over Colorado, Crisp was asked what the rim looks like to him right now. He grinned.
“The ocean,” he said. “Not gonna lie.”
Nowell praised the extra time Crisp has spent in the gym recently. All of that work is starting to pay off in conference play, Crisp said.
“You just got to keep pushing,” Crisp said,. “Keep chipping away, block out any outside noise. Never get too high, never get too low. Just always keep working.”
Crisp had 16 points for UW against Colorado, including 14 in the first half. As for the other seniors, Matisse Thybulle finished with nine points and two blocks. He also hit three crucial free throws down the stretch. Battling foul trouble, Noah Dickerson finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Dominic Green came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers and finish with eight points.
But perhaps the biggest impact from the Huskies’ veterans wasn’t quantifiable.
“They’re great leaders,” Nowell said. “Really. They give us advice on and off the court. They’re just great to be around. Just seeing that they were there for four years, through everything they’ve been through. Just to see them come out and compete at a high level everyday is very important for us to see.”
Said Hopkins: “Our senior leadership was just huge. They calmed it down. … I’m just proud and happy for them, too.”
After picking up two road wins over Utah and Colorado — its first road sweep in six years — UW will now head home to face Stanford on Thursday and Cal on Saturday. Along with the Huskies, Arizona (4-0), UCLA (3-0) and Oregon State (3-0) are also undefeated in Pac-12 play.
“Best feeling in the world,” Crisp said. “I love winning, man. That’s the best feeling just getting wins and especially being the first road sweep we’ve had in a while.”