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STANFORD, Calif. — Before stepping on the court for Sunday’s Pac-12 game at Stanford, the 25th-ranked Washington Huskies had to flush an embarrassing defeat three days earlier in the Bay Area.
It’s customary for coach Mike Hopkins to review video of the previous game with the team to learn from the mistakes, but not this time.
“I made the decision that I wasn’t going to show clips of that game,” Hopkins said in reference to a 76-73 loss at California on Thursday. “The decision that I made was to re-calibrate their mindset.
“After you had that loss it was: ‘The sky is falling. You’re out of the (NCAA) Tournament. You’ll never play again. You just jumped off the Montlake Bridge.’ Whatever it may be. The reality of it is, it’s not the end of the world. There’s a lot of basketball to be played.”
Hopkins told the Huskies “we have to get back to who we were and what our identity is. And that’s on the defensive end.”
UW guard Matisse Thybulle agreed. “The team that played on Thursday wasn’t us,” he said.
In front of 5,741 at Maples Pavilion, the Huskies regained their identity, securing a hard-fought 62-61 victory thanks in large part to a dominant defensive performance and a couple of clutch baskets at the end from Jaylen Nowell.
Foul trouble limited Nowell to just 23 minutes, but the sophomore guard finished with a team-high 13 points and scored the final four points for the Huskies.
“It was definitely nerve-wrecking,” said Nowell who played the final 8:50 with four fouls. “(Being in foul trouble) is definitely in the back of your mind when you’re playing. You don’t want to get a cheap one. There were a lot of cheap ones today, but they went how they went.
“I just want to win. Honestly, it’s really nothing special. When I came back in the game, I was like I got to do whatever I had to do to make sure we get the win. And that’s what I did.”
Immediately after Nowell’s return, the Huskies extended their one-point lead (47-46) to seven (54-47) with 6:47 remaining. However, Stanford answered with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 54.
In the final five minutes, the lead changed hands four times and neither team led by more than three points.
With Washington down 59-58, Nowell wiggled free to hit a mid-range shot along the baseline at the 1:26 mark that put the Huskies ahead for good.
At the other end, Thybulle collected his third steal before Nowell extended UW’s lead to 62-59 with another mid-range jumper.
Still, Stanford didn’t go away quietly.
The Cardinal pulled within a point following Oscar da Silvia’s layup with 15 seconds remaining.
Nowell had a chance for two foul shots to put the Huskies up three, but missed the first of a one-and-one opportunity, allowing Stanford one last chance with 10 seconds to play.
KZ Okpala streaked down court and under tight coverage from David Crisp and Thybulle, the Cardinal forward rushed an errant 3-point attempt that bounced off the rim.
“I felt like we were tough,” Hopkins said “We didn’t play great. We made some turnovers when we didn’t need them. We frustrated them on defense and that’s who we are. That’s what we got to hang our hats on.
“The most important thing I felt like we played tough tonight. We made tough plays that we had to make down the stretch. That’s the key.”
Without sophomore guard Daejon Davis — the former Garfield High School star who sat out because of a sprained right ankle — Stanford (15-14, 8-9) relied heavily on Josh Sharma (16 points and 14 rebounds) and da Silvia (15 points).
Washington, which led 29-23 at halftime, had difficulty at times containing Davis’ replacement, Cormac Ryan, who scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers in the second half. Stanford was 0-for-8 from behind the arc in the first half and 6-for-9 after the break.
The Huskies were out-rebounded 38-30, but they kept the Cardinal off balance and forced 19 turnovers that led to 28 points.
“It really had nothing to do with offense today,” Nowell said. “Our defense was really our offense today.”
Noah Dickerson, who had 12 points, Nahziah Carter and Nowell each played with four fouls for most of the second half in a chippy game that had both teams barking at each other and the officials. Crisp and Sharma each picked up a flagrant foul and Dickerson collected a technical foul.
Following a bittersweet road trip, Washington returns home for its final two regular-season games with the Pac-12 regular-season title in hand.
“We still have motivation,” Nowell said. “We’re happy for the Pac-12 championship, but we have two more games left. We still got to prove that we’re still good because you’re only as good as your last game.”