SIGNATURE WIN — Washington coach Mike Hopkins talks to his players during the first half of Wednesday night's 74-65 upset win over second-ranked Kansas in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo)

Hopkins tweaks his 2-3 zone in upset over Kansas

Published Dec 7, 2017 at 7:15am

(AP) — First-year Washington coach Mike Hopkins saw how Kansas dissected Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone defense last week, so he made a couple tweaks to his own version before facing the Jayhawks on Wednesday night in Kansas City, Mo.

Primarily, Hopkins stretched the zone to take away the 3-pointer.

It worked to perfection.

The Huskies frustrated the Jayhawks' dangerous lineup of deep threats, Matisse Thybulle hit five-pointers and scored 19 points, and Washington kept its poise down the stretch for a 74-65 victory that knocked No. 2 Kansas from the ranks of the unbeaten.

"We've been very fortunate this year to play a lot of teams that shoot 30 and 35 3-pointers. It's really the kryptonite of the zone," said Hopkins, who spent 22 years on Jim Boeheim's staff at Syracuse, a tenure that came in handy considering the Jayhawks just beat the Orange.

"I felt like this could be our best opportunity to win the game," Hopkins said.

Jaylen Nowell also had 15 points, and Noah Dickerson added 13 points and 14 rebounds, as the Huskies (7-2) beat the Jayhawks (7-1) for the first time since December 1974.

"We really just didn't have it tonight. You have to give them credit," the Jayhawks' Devonte Graham said. "They made every shot and they did a good job of not letting us get comfortable."

Lagerald Vick had a career-high 28 points for Kansas, doing almost all his damage in the middle of the Huskies' zone. But he didn't get a whole lot of help as the Jayhawks went 5 for 20 from the 3-point arc, lowlighted by lousy performances from their two best sharpshooters.

Graham, coming off back-to-back 35-point outbursts, was held to three points on 1-for-8 shooting, while Svi Mykhailiuk was 3 for 12 from the field and scored eight points before fouling out.

"They took everybody away but Lagerald — 'See if you can beat us,'" Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I thought our defense was horrendous and our hustle plays weren't very good either."

In truth, the Jayhawks had little trouble getting Vick open shots in the middle of the zone. The problem came in that he was just 12 of 23 from the field, even though most of the shots were bunnies.

Throw in foul trouble that sent the Jayhawks' two big men, Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, to the bench well before halftime and it was no surprise the Huskies took a 36-34 lead into the break.

Washington kept the pressure on early in the second half, pushing its lead to 52-44 with 12:10 left in the game, before the Jayhawks finally turned up the defensive intensity. Vick got going again inside and Azubuike's slam of an alley-oop pass trimmed their deficit to 53-52 with 9 1/2 minutes to go.

The Huskies calmed back down after a timeout, though, stretching their lead again. Thybulle got loose for a transition dunk, Dickerson added a slam of his own, and Hameir Wright's 3-pointer from the wing made it 69-56 — their biggest lead to that point.

Even when the Jayhawks caught a break, like a technical foul on David Crisp in the closing minutes, they couldn't capitalize. Graham missed both free throws with a chance to cut into a 73-59 deficit, and Mykhailiuk promptly missed a 3-point attempt as the Huskies put the game away.

"You could see this coming," Self said. "When we're energized and moving the ball and everybody is playing with energy, I think we're a nice team. But when we're not, we get average real quick."

LOYOLA-CHICAGO 65, FLORIDA 59

Aundre Jackson scored 23 points, Cameron Krutwig added 14 and Loyola-Chicago handed No. 5 Florida its third consecutive loss.

The Gators (5-3) shot 36.9 percent from the field, missed 17 of 19 3-point attempts and finished with seven assists.

The Ramblers (9-1) were much more efficient, shooting 52 percent from the field and making half their 12 shots from behind the arc.

No Florida player reached double digits in scoring and the Gators led for just 93 seconds.

UNC 104, WESTERN CAROLINA 61

Luke Maye had 12 points and 12 rebounds and No. 11 North Carolina hit a season-high 16 3-pointers.

The Tar Heels (9-1) ran off 20 straight points during a 33-3 first-half run. UNC shot 57 percent and made 16 of 22 3-point attempts for the game, coming one shy of matching the program record for made 3s in a game.

Freshman Jalek Felton had a team-high 15 points for the Tar Heels, who finished with six players in double figures.

Deriece Parks scored 13 points for the Catamounts (3-7).

XAVIER 96, KENT STATE 70

Trevon Bluiett scored 26 points — the seventh time he's had 20 this season — and No. 13 Xavier took control with an 18-point run.

The Musketeers (8-1) never trailed against Kent State (5-4), which kept it close at the outset with solid shooting but never recovered from the Musketeers' run that began late in the first half. Danny Pippen led the defending Mid-American Conference champions with 15 points.

Bluiett hit two 3s as Xavier opened the game with a 14-2 spurt, making its first six shots. Kerem Kanter added a season-high 20 points along with eight rebounds.

Xavier has won 36 straight non-conference home games.