The Huskies pushed Gonzaga to the limit on Sunday night at Hec Ed, but the Zags added some timely threes to their barrage of interior buckets to put the game away late. The Dawgs got within 72-70 in the closing minutes before Gonzaga finished things off to win 83-76. UW turned the ball over 19 times and gave up 11 offensive rebounds, though there were lots of highlights from their star freshmen, as well.
Gonzaga got off to a solid start by relentlessly attacking the middle of the UW zone with both the dribble and interior passing. Filip Petrusev was the beneficiary of the attacks with a pair of early buckets. The Dawgs settled for more midrange shots, but they weren’t falling at the same rate. Killian Tillie took advantage of the compacted defense with a three from the top of the key for a 13-7 lead at the first break.
UW found their own way into the paint through Isaiah Stewart. With his back to the basket, the big man hit a series of shots to keep the Huskies close while the defense tightened up. The attention on Stewart allowed Quade Green and Jaden McDaniels to nail open looks from outside. Corey Kispert answered with a triple of his own and Tillie drew an offensive foul on a Hameir Wright drive to recapture momentum at the under-12 timeout.
While UW remained active and assertive defensively, their deflections were not turning into steals and Gonzaga had a big turnover advantage early. At 22-14, it looked like Gonzaga might assert itself, but the Dawgs drew three fouls on one possession, the last of which was a three-point play on which he tipped in an in-bound pass. UW followed with consecutive turnovers forced by Ryan Woolridge. The first was a sloppy pass by Wright that turned into an easy layup.
The turnovers continued to plague UW, but the freshmen scored enough to keep the game close. McDaniels, in particular, made a big dunk around the six-minute mark. Green added another three to cut Gonzaga’s lead to 30-25. While Carter just missed an alley-oop, Jamal Bey knocked down another three to cut the game to a single possession. A baby hook by Petrusev brought the lead to 32-28 at the four-minute timeout. At that point, Petrusev and Woolridge had 18 of the Zags’ 32.
UW turned the ball over a couple more times with an opportunity to tie at 32. Kispert threw down a big dunk and Tillie made another shot to stretch the lead back out to six. Wright made his first three on his fourth try and the Dawgs got a stop at the halftime buzzer to bring the score to 41-37 at the half.
Early in the second half, Green picked up his third foul on a play away from the ball and went to the bench for Elijah Hardy, who quickly turned it over on an errant entry pass. The Dawgs went cold from outside- two missed threes by Carter and one each by Hardy and McDaniels. Kispert answered with a make at the other end. Green came back from the bench and sparked the offense. He hit two runners, a jumper, and picked off a pass on the sideline. He got the score to 51-55 at the under-12 timeout, albeit with both McDaniels and himself hampered with three fouls.
Kispert scored on a backdoor cut when Tillie found him with a great pass from the top of the key. A Petrusev baby hook and a Woolridge layup pushed Gonzaga’s lead to a game-high eight. Green came back with a needed corner three.
The Dawgs struggled through a difficult stretch of three possessions. On the first, a Carter dunk was waved off due to a foul on the way to the hoop. Then, Drew Timme made a put-back after a well-defended possession. Stewart made a miracle shot while getting fouled, but the refs again waved it off and ruled it a foul before the shot. Stewart made both free throws and Carter followed with a transition runner to get back within five. The Huskies traded a Tillie two for a Wright three to get it to 67-63 at the eight minute mark.
Gonzaga continued to work the ball inside, but the Huskies would not go away. The defense cheated inside when Green tried to make an entry pass to Stewart. Instead, he swung the ball to McDaniels at the top of the key for a three to bring UW within 72-70. Out of the timeout, the Huskies defended well for the full shot clock and Tillie made a very deep three. Not to be deterred, Carter answered with a triple of his own. Woolridge made another shot, then Green threw the ball away in a trap for another Woolridge bucket. It looked like Gonzaga might have the game in hand, but Carter hit another huge three. It brought UW within three with under two minutes left.
The Huskies forced a difficult three and secured the rebound. Carter drove to the basket but couldn’t finish. Joel Ayayi took another long three and made this one to go up by six with 24 seconds left. McDaniels couldn’t make a step back three, and the Huskies had to start fouling.
Altogether, this game was a reminder of both the distinctive strengths and weaknesses for this Husky team. For all the turnovers and questionable decision-making on offense, McDaniels and Stewart have the skill to make very difficult shots. The zone defense allows too many offensive rebounds, but they also force opponents to make tough shots and don’t give them easy threes. The final result didn’t come through, but the Huskies had a chance in the final minutes to beat a legitimate top-10 team.
-McDaniels, Stewart, Carter, and Green led the offense at alternating intervals. Stewart faced double teams most of the night, but still found his way to 21 including 9/10 from the line. Despite some moments of sloppiness, McDaniels tallied five assists and a very efficient 15 points. Green continues to emerge as a playmaker and a needed court-spacer.
-All five Gonzaga starters finished in double figures. They only made 6/21 from outside (including a couple big ones late), but shot 56% inside the arc. With 11 offensive rebounds, that’s a recipe for efficient scoring. Petrusev was especially damaging with his unstoppable left shoulder hook. The Dawgs didn’t double him and he put up 17 and 10. Tillie had a weird line for a big man- 6 assists and 4 steals.