SEATTLE -- Things are about to get serious for the No. 22 Washington. Coach Mike Hopkins isn’t sure his Huskies are ready.
Washington beat South Dakota 77-55 on Monday night in what was ultimately a fairly easy game.
After the game, Hopkins appeared tired. The kind of tired when you know No. 9 Gonzaga is coming to town on Sunday and you have one warmup game this week to get ready.
“I think as coaches you’re not as optimistic as you’d like to be at this time of year,” Hopkins said. “But I think the one thing I learned over time as an assistant for years is every coach is complaining about their team this time of year. That’s why you play the preseason. You wish you could be perfect, but we’re not. You’ve just got to get better.”
The Huskies (6-1) took a step in that direction as their highly touted freshmen led the way again.
Jaden McDaniels scored 20 points and Isaiah Stewart added 16 points and 15 rebounds. The Huskies won their fourth straight game by defending the 3-point line against the nation’s top long-distance shooting team, holding the Coyotes to just 17.4% from behind the arc.
South Dakota entered the game hitting 47.4% of its 3s and featured college basketball’s best 3-point shooter, Tyler Hagedorn. The Coyotes hit just 4 of 23 and the Huskies held Hagedorn, who had hit 18 of 24 3s coming in, without a 3 on five attempts. South Dakota has lost three of four.
Washington held South Dakota scoreless for stretches of more than three minutes three times in the first half. The longest was 5:55 and helped the Huskies put together a 13-2 run late in the first half.
McDaniels started the run with a 3 and a turnaround jumper from the baseline, part of a run of 10 consecutive points for the freshman forward. He added a floater on a drive and a 17-foot jumper to end the run and put Washington up 32-23 at the break.
McDaniels’ 15 points in the first half had a lot to do with that lead, and so did the Huskies’ defense. They held the nation’s top 3-point shooting team to 3 of 13 (23.1’%) from behind the arc in the first half and 27.3% (9 of 33) overall.
Washington extended the run into the second half, scoring seven straight points to start the period, building a 39-23 lead on a pass from McDaniels to Stewart through traffic for a dunk on the fast break.
Stewart also played an important role on defense, directing his teammates to shooters while defending the paint in the low post.
“I have the eyes back there so I try to talk to my brothers out there, let them know when the shooter’s coming through, who’s in the high post,” Stewart said.
Stanley Umude led South Dakota with 17 points, Cody Kelly scored 11 and Hagedorn had 10.
The Coyotes cut the Huskies’ lead to four multiple times midway through the second half. But Stewart slammed home his own miss to make it 58-52 with 5:23 left and Washington pulled away from there, finishing the game on a 19-3 run.
Jamal Bey added 14 for the Huskies and Nahziah Carter had 12 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought there were some really good points, but I also thought there were some frustrating points,” Hopkins said. “Getting the lead, then a couple bad shots, then breaking down defensively, we allowed (South Dakota comebacks) to happen. Then when the game started getting closer it looked like we lost our poise a little bit. That’s what you get with youth.”
No member of the Coyotes shot better than 50 percent in the team’s most difficult shooting game of the season. Hagedorn and Umude, picked as the Summit League’s preseason player of the year, missed 26 of their 37 combined shots and 10 of their 11 3s. The team made just 1 of 10 3-point attempts the second half.
“Defending the 3-point shot is a really, really important in college basketball,” Hopkins said. “It’s important for us. It’s what we stress every day. It hasn’t been great so far, but tonight it was pretty good.”
South Dakota: Picked to finish second in the Summit League, the Coyotes showed grit and skill against the Huskies. While it doesn’t help the bottom line, the loss will help South Dakota when conference play begins.
Washington: South Dakota offered the Huskies something of a challenge, forcing them to defend the 3 and the paint. Troubling that Washington failed to dominate the smaller Coyotes early in the game. We’ll see just how far the Huskies have come when No. 9 Gonzaga comes to town Sunday.
South Dakota: The Coyotes return home to play NAIA Mount Marty on Friday after a stretch of four games on the road.
Washington: The Huskies continue a seven-game nonconference homestand with Eastern Washington on Wednesday, their last warmup before hosting No. 9 Gonzaga on Sunday.
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