Now they know what real competition looks like.
For the second straight season, Mike Hopkins and his Washington Huskies got a first-hand look at what a #1 team in the nation looks like. But unlike last season when UW upset Kansas on the road (yeah, yeah ... “neutral site”), there would be no upset this time. Gonzaga defeated Washington 81-79 in Spokane.
Even missing a few key contributors, Gonzaga presented a supreme challenge for the Huskies. The Bulldogs boast the best offense in the nation and had averaged just over 98 points per game coming into it. Four starters average over 11 points per game and each one of them were over 35% shooting the three. One starter - 6’8” Rui Hachimura- averages nearly 22 points per game on 60% FG and 50% three point shooting.
Despite those lofty numbers, the UW defense was up to the challenge. UW’s zone contained the Zags long-distance shooting, allowing only 8 makes from deep. In addition, the Zags, who lead the nation with a 65% FG on two point shots, only managed to go 19 of 43 (44%) from inside the arc.
That’s pretty good defense, all things considered.
That defense compensated for an offense that was inconsistent all game long. Jaylen Nowell was the only Dawg that could consistently get anything throughout the game against the swarming Gonzaga defense. The Huskies star put up 26 points and five rebounds. His shooting sparked a strong UW run early in the second half that briefly saw UW tie the Bulldogs early. It was his free throws with 9.4 seconds left that tied the game a second time.
Unfortunately, the Huskies couldn’t keep pull it off. A dramatic 12 foot field goal by Hachimura (22 pts, 9 rebs) set up by a beautiful assist from PG Josh Perkins (9 pts, 5 assists) with 0.6 seconds left cinched the game for the undefeated Bulldogs.
Washington is now largely through the brutal stretch in its out of conference schedule. Though #15 Virginia Tech is still out there (12/15), UW will play four straight home games before PAC 12 play begins for them against Washington State. That stretch begins with Seattle U on Sunday.
- UW’s starting five were David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson, and Hameir Wright. This was Wright’s second straight start ahead of incumbent Sam Timmins.
- For all of his defensive prowess, Mattise Thybulle has really struggled with the three point shot. He entered the game shooting just 24% on the season. He arrested that trend a bit by going 3-6 against the Bulldogs. If he can rediscover that stroke, it would be boon to the Huskies in conference play.
- First half offense continues to be a struggle for this Huskies team. They didn’t even get to the 10 points scored mark until 10 minutes were burned off of the first half clock. Things improved as the evening went on thanks in large part to a great night (14 of 15) at the free throw line by the team.
- Foul trouble was a factor for UW again tonight. Both Wright and Timmins racked up three fouls apiece in limited first half minutes and were relegated to less aggressive play in the second half. Wright ended up getting DQ’d with 9:24 left to go in the game and Dickerson followed him at the 2:46 mark.
- There was a Jamal Bey sighting tonight. The freshman still has not scored a field goal yet this season.
- Yes, Bill Walton was on the call tonight. It was too surreal to even describe with words.