The zone master couldn’t beat Kansas. But his right-hand man for 22 years did.
The Washington Huskies, coached by Mike Hopkins — a Syracuse assistant for 22 years before taking over Washington this season — handed the second-ranked Jayhawks their first loss of the season. The Huskies won 74-69
It was a stunner at the Sprint Center, with the Huskies doing everything that Syracuse and coach Jim Boeheim couldn’t do in Kansas’ victory over the Orange on Saturday.
The Washington zone pushed shooters away from the basket, and this terrific perimeter-shooting Kansas team rarely got clean looks, finishing 5 for 20 on threes.
Devonte’ Graham, who had scored 35 points in each of the last two games, wasn’t part of the game with three points, and no other teammate picked him up from the outside.
The dagger came with about 2:15 remaining when Washington outhustled KU for a loose ball. It rolled out to David Crisp, who buried a three-pointer to make it 73-59.
When Crisp was immediately called for a technical foul, Graham missed two free throws and KU didn’t score on the possession.
Kansas got little from Svi Mykhailuk and less from Malik Newman. The Jayhawks played tentatively. The Huskies were the aggressor.
The KU offense came almost entirely from Lagerald Vick, stationed in the middle of the zone. Vick did his part with 28 points, but he needed to be more accurate than 12 of 23 from the floor.
Other ingredients to pull the upset were there. Washington battled Kansas evenly on the boards and took advantage of KU foul trouble among the bigs in the first half. KU got away with playing Clay Young against Syracuse. Not Wednesday.
The Huskies played smart and rode the hot hand of guard Matisse Thybulle, who had a career night shooting three pointers and finished with 19 points.
Should Kansas’ expectations be downgraded or was this a one-off?
The loss was troubling, especially the effort from Graham, who won multiple national weekly player awards for his recent effort. He showed the ability to take over games, but disappeared from this one.
Also, Kansas must find a way to win when shots aren’t falling. They’ll see more zone as the season unfolds. The Jayhawks have to become smarter in how to attack the defense.
Here’s the odd thing about Wednesday. Washington could have been here with Michael Porter Jr. and his brother, Jontay. They were Washington-bound under coach Lorenzo Romar. But Romar was fired after last season. The Porters wound up at Missouri, and the Huskies hired Hopkins, who guided one of the biggest upsets of the season.