SEATTLE, Wash. — Tuesday marks the first of two games for the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats in the state of Washington before the Christmas break.
The Wildcats will take on the Washington Huskies inside the Alaska Airlines Arena, and it’s a game that Bethune-Cookman would like to put forth a strong effort on both ends of the floor, and even come away with an upset victory.
Tuesday’s showdown marks the third game of a four-game road trip for the Wildcats to close out the 2017 calendar year. The team was stuck in Atlanta for an extended time on Monday, as the entire Atlanta Airport lost power, causing delays to over 1,200 flights. It also marks the eighth time that Bethune-Cookman has faced a team from the Pac-12.
Bethune-Cookman is 0-7 all-time against teams from the conference. Their last contest was back on November 17th, 2015, when they well to the Arizona State Sun Devils, 49-39.
Here’s everything you need to know in advance of Tuesday’s showdown.
Washington has been one of the more interesting teams through the first five weeks of 2017-18. They’ve had several closer-than-expected games against smaller schools, while they also have a road win over the Kansas Jayhawks inside The Phog.
It makes you wonder what edition of the Huskies will show up on each night. But, despite the close games, the Huskies have come out on top more than they’ve lost, and enter Tuesday with an 8-3 record.
The Huskies have four players who are averaging double-digit points per game, led by freshman guard Jaylen Nowell and his 17.5 points per game. Add in the veteran experience from Noah Dickerson (16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds) and David Crisp (12.5 points, 3.6 assists), and first-year head coach Mike Hopkins has himself a talented roster to build around for the next year and a half.
Following back-to-back losses to the Providence Friars and Virginia Tech Hokies at the 2K Classic, the Huskies have gone 6-1. Their lone loss game at the hands of the 12th-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs on December 10th. Washington seems to be clicking on both ends, and that could spell disaster for a Wildcats’ team that doesn’t have the proven depth that the Huskies have.
While Washington has won six of their last seven outings, the Wildcats are trending in the opposite direction. After a three game winning streak, Bethune-Cookman has now lost four of their last five, including losses to the South Florida Bulls and Kennesaw State Owls to open their current four game road swing.
One positive from their loss to the Owls was the return of senior guard Brandon Tabb to the lineup. After missing two games, Tabb was back in the mix and put up 14 points on the road at Kennesaw State. Tabb leads the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 19.0 points per contest, and his 94.3% shooting clip from the free throw line ranks among the leaders in the NCAA. Bethune-Cookman will need a big game from their leader if they want to keep things close with Washington in the second half.
Like the Huskies, the Wildcats have four players averaging double-digit points per game this season, which leads to some exciting one-on-one match-ups come Tuesday night. Junior forward Shawntrez Davis has been one of the more impressive newcomers this season, regardless of level. He has seven double-doubles to his name through 12 games for the Wildcats, and he has a pair of 19-point, 10-rebound performances over his last three games.
As a team, the Wildcats like to shoot the three ball (97-of-290). If they want to keep pace with the Huskies, they will need to hit their shots from beyond the arc and limit the Huskies to two-point looks.
Players to Watch
Bethune-Cookman – Malik Maitland
In his first season with the Wildcats, the Morehead State Eagles‘ transfer has emerged as one of the top ball distributors in the MEAC. Maitland is averaging 5.3 assists per contest this season, which ranks third among players from the MEAC this season. His 64 total assists rank 32nd in the country, and he also has a 2.21 assist-to-turnover ratio. On top of all that, Maitland has shown he has the ability to score, averaging 12.0 points per contest. He has at least two assists in 11 of 12 games this season, and he hasn’t committed more than three turnovers in his last 10 contests.
Maitland has been rock solid on the back end for Ryan Ridder’s team so far this season, and they will need another strong performance from their point guard on Tuesday.
Washington – Noah Dickerson
The battle inside between Dickerson and Davis will be one to keep an eye on. Davis is a double-double machine for the Wildcats, while Dickerson is playing some of the best basketball of his career as of late for Washington. In the Huskies’ win over Kansas, Dickerson went for 13 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists. He has scored in double figures in six straight games, and has a pair of double-doubles and a pair of 20+ point games during that stretch.
If Dickerson can keep Davis under wraps on both ends of the floor, the Huskies should cruise.
This game has the potential to be another one of those head-scratching game for the Huskies. If the Wildcats are able to hit their shots consistently throughout the game, then they will be right in it down to the end. However, if they don’t, it could be a long night for a Bethune-Cookman team that’s trending in the wrong direction.
For the Huskies, Dickerson needs to be an impact player on both ends of the floor and eliminate the threat of Davis inside. If he can do that, Washington will force the Wildcats to try and hit their shots from outside, which is easier said than done.
Tuesday’s game will start off close, and the Huskies will have a slim lead at the break. The second half is where Washington will eventually pull away for the double-digit win, pushing their current streak to seven wins in eight games.
– T. Bennett