Washington makes successful return, beats Utah State 78-61
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Noah Dickerson had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and ninth-seeded Washington made a successful return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in eight years, beating Utah State 78-61 on Friday.
The Pac-12′s regular season champions swept the league’s awards — top player, best defensive player and coach of the year — and got something from all of them against one of the hottest teams in March.
Eighth-seeded Utah State (28-7) had won 10 in a row and 17 of 18 while taking the Mountain West title. The Aggies got the highest seed in school history and were trying to end their own long NCAA Tournament drought. They haven’t won since 2002, dropping eight in a row — including 2006 against the Huskies.
Washington (27-8) got enough from its top players.
Jaylen Nowell, the Pac-12 player of the year, had 19 points and five assists. Top defender Matisse Thybulle helped the Huskies surge ahead to stay late in the first half but was limited by foul trouble the rest of the way. He finished with 10 points, five steals and three blocks.
Coach of the year Mike Hopkins got a $17.5 million extension through 2025 on the eve of the game, and then led the Huskies to their long-awaited win.
Brock Miller had 13 points for Utah State.
Thybulle helped the Huskies build the game’s first significant lead. He hit a 3-pointer and had a steal and layup during a 13-3 run that ended the first half and put Washington ahead 40-28. Thybulle also had an emphatic block on Abel Porter’s jumper from the perimeter.
The Huskies pushed the lead to 13 points early in the second half before Thybulle went to the bench with his third foul. Utah State cut it to 54-53 on Sam Merrill’s 3-pointer, but Nahziah Carter hit back-to-back 3s that blunted the comeback. Washington was never seriously threatened down the stretch.
Washington: The Huskies are in tournament for first time since 2011, when they beat Georgia. They haven’t won two games in the tournament since 2010, when they lost to West Virginia in the Sweet 16.
Utah State: The Aggies had a breakthrough season, getting ranked in Top 25 for first time in eight years. Their 28 wins were third-most in school history.
Washington will face either top-seeded North Carolina or Iona on Sunday in the Midwest Region.
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