No. 9 Washington Downs No. 8 Utah State, Advances to Round 2 of NCAA Tournament

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2019

COLUMBUS, OHIO - MARCH 22:  Matisse Thybulle #4 of the Washington Huskies goes up to the basket against Abel Porter #15 of the Utah State Aggies during the first half of the game in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 22, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Playing in its first NCAA men's basketball tournament game since 2011, No. 9 seed Washington stayed alive with a 78-61 Round 1 win over No. 8 Utah State.

Noah Dickerson led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Huskies, who shot 10-of-17 from three-point range to pull away for the win. Matisse Thybulle also made a big impact on both ends with five steals and three blocks to go with his 10 points.

The Pac-12 regular-season champions got an at-large bid after losing in the conference tournament final and made it count with an opening victory.

Utah State was seeking its first win in March Madness since 2001, but the team couldn't prevent an early exit as leading scorer Sam Merrill was held to 10 points.

     

Washington was the bigger, stronger and more athletic team from the start of the game, denying any open looks on the defensive end:

The athleticism led to easy baskets offensively:

Thybulle blocked two shots and had three steals in the first half alone.

Meanwhile, Utah State hurt itself plenty on the offensive end, turning it over 11 times before the half.

Merrill couldn't get anything going while dealing with foul trouble:

Washington took a 40-28 lead into intermission.

Merrill finally got going deep into the second half, and unsurprisingly, Utah State was able to rally behind him. He scored all 10 of his points after halftime, hitting a couple of three-pointers to energize his team.

The Aggies got another boost when Washington guard David Crisp fouled out with more than eight minutes left in the game. Utah State used this stretch to cut the deficit to one while putting a lot of pressure on the No. 9 seed.

Ultimately, though, the Mountain West squad couldn't keep up on the scoreboard.

Washington continued to use its size inside as Dickerson made big plays down the stretch:

Jaylen Nowell then made his free throws to help close out the win on his way to 19 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Oregon earned an impressive win over Wisconsin earlier Friday, and Washington's victory shows the Pac-12 might have been undervalued this season.

What's Next?

Things could get much tougher for Washington, which will likely face No. 1 North Carolina on Sunday if the Tar Heels get by No. 16 Iona.

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