KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mike Hopkins, the first-year coach of Washington, saw how Kansas dissected Syracuse's famous 2-3 zone defense last week, so he made a couple of adjustments to his own version before of facing the Jayhawks on Wednesday night.
Mainly, Hopkins stretched the area to take the triple.
It worked perfectly.
The Huskies thwarted the dangerous lineup of the Jayhawks' dangerous threats, Matisse Thybulle hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points, and Washington maintained its poise in the final stretch for a 74-65 victory that knocked the No. 2 Kansas out of the ranks of the undefeated
"We have been very fortunate this year to play a lot of teams that throw 30 and 35 triples, it really is kryptonite in the area," said Hopkins, who spent 22 years on Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team, a position that was useful considering that the Jayhawks simply beat the Orange.
"I felt this could be our best chance to win the game," Hopkins said.
Jaylen Nowell also had 15 points, and Noah Dickerson added 13 points and 14 rebounds, while the Huskies (7-2) beat the Jayhawks (7-1) for the first time since December 1974.
"We really did not have it tonight, you have to give them credit," said Devonte Graham of the Jayhawks. "They did every shot and they did a good job of not letting us feel comfortable."
Lagerald Vick had a personal record of 28 points for Kansas, doing almost all his damage in the middle of the Huskies zone. But he did not get much help as the Jayhawks lost 5 of 20 from the 3-point goal, very low for the lousy performances of their two best snipers.
Graham, coming off two consecutive starts of 35 points, stayed at three points with 1 of 8 shots, while Svi Mykhailiuk went 3-for-12 from the field and scored eight points before committing fouls.
"They took everyone except Lagerald:" See if he can beat us, "said Kansas coach Bill Self." I thought our defense was terrible and our busy plays were not very good either. "
In truth, the Jayhawks had little trouble getting Vick to take open shots in the middle of the zone. The problem was that he only had 12 of 23 from the field, although most of the shots were bunnies.
Launching a fouls problem that sent the two big men of the Jayhawks, Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, to the bench before halftime and it was no surprise that the Huskies took a 36-34 lead at halftime .
Washington kept up the pressure early in the second half, pushing their lead to 52-44 with 12:10 remaining in the game, before the Jayhawks finally regained defensive intensity. Vick came back in and Azubuike's pass from an alley pass cut his deficit to 53-52 with 9 1/2 minutes left.
The Huskies calmed down after a timeout, however, they again increased their advantage. Thybulle was released for a transition dunk, Dickerson added a blow of his own, and triple Hameir Wright from the wing put the 69-56, his biggest advantage to that point.
Even when the Jayhawks took a break, like a technical foul on David Crisp in the final minutes, they could not capitalize. Graham missed two free throws with the possibility of cutting at a 73-59 disadvantage, and Mykhailiuk immediately missed a 3-point attempt when the Huskies left the game.
"You could see this coming," said Self. "When we are energized and moving the ball and everyone plays with energy, I think we are a good team." But when we do not, we get a very fast average. "
Kansas fans went to the exits with several minutes, a rarity for the program. But it did not surprise the coach of the Jayhawks. "If I had paid to see that," said Self, "I probably would have wanted something to drink long before there were 2 minutes left."
Washington surely did not look like the team that had trouble eliminating Seattle, California-Davis and Omaha in recent weeks. The Huskies were clearly prepared to play the first of the consecutive games against major programs with Gonzaga on the next deck.
Kansas may want to reconsider the games at the Sprint Center. While the Jayhawks like to give them a sample of the building where the Big 12 Tournament is played, it comes at the expense of a big advantage in the field of Allen Fieldhouse. In addition, TCU recovered them in the quarterfinals of the tournament last year, and then lost to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament a couple of weeks later.
Washington starts a four-game home with No. 12 Gonzaga on Sunday night.
Kansas welcomes Arizona State No. 16 to Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday.