'Thief' Thybulle fuels early-season UW hoops success

FILE -- Washington forward Matisse Thybulle, right, looks to pass the ball as Colorado guard George King defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Boulder, Colo. Colorado won 81-66. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By Bill Swartz, KOMO NewsRadio

Through the first six games of the basketball season, the Washington Husky men are excelling in two areas; offensive rebounds and steals. Chief among the UW thieves is 6 foot-5 inch swing man Matisse Thybulle. His 3.8 steals per game is tops in the Pac-12 conference and second in the nation.

"For us as a team we hang our hats on defense," said Thybulle following Washington's home floor win over UC Davis. "I take pride in being the best defender on the court every time I step out there. Coach Hop, (Mike Hopkins) puts us in great positions to wreak havoc on the other team."

Thybulle's 7-foot wing-span and natural instincts make him a perfect defender at the top of Hopkin's 2-3 zone defense he's trying to implement at Washington.

"He's active and doing so much for us" Hopkins said of Thybulle's efforts. "We call him Deion Sanders because he had six takeaways. He's so long and has great anticipation, he closes so fast he's blocking jump shots from behind."

Coach Hopkins pointed out an activity category in the NBA called turnovers to takeaways. The great players have a ratio of three takeaways to one turnover, and Thybulle is right there. Washington as a team has 9.2 steals per game to lead the Pac-12.

The Dawgs trail only California among Pac-12 teams in offensive rebounds. That's due primarily to junior post Noah Dickerson, currently second in the conference at 3.8 carroms per game.

Learning the nuances of the zone is still a work in progress for the Huskies as they are giving up 81 points per game. Opponents are also making better than 40 percent of their three-point shot attempts.

"We've got to have an identity and it has to be on the defensive end," emphasized coach Hopkins. "Because you never know if you're going to make shots or miss shots. What you have to do is be great defensively."

That plan certainly looks doable with the disruptive Matisse Thybulle leading the way.

Three games in five days

Washington's energy level suffered a bit in Sunday night's game, partly because of a challenging stretch of three games in five days. The Huskies host Kennesaw State at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Owls from Kennesaw, Georgia come to the Pacific Northwest with a 1-5 record.

Tony Castricone and Jason Hamilton describe the action starting at 5:30 p.m. on KOMO NewsRadio AM 1000/ FM 97.7