Playing on the Huskies’ court for the first time since 2005, the Bulldogs post their most lopsided win over UW, winning 97-70.
The Washington men’s basketball team pulled out all the stops Sunday and packed Alaska Airlines Arena with a sellout crowd which had been waiting more than a decade for No. 12 Gonzaga to return to the building.
The Huskies said all the right things in the run-up to the reunion with their cross-state rival, believing a new direction under first-year coach Mike Hopkins and a five-game winning streak that included an upset over No. 2 Kansas last week would change the outcome in a 107-year-old series that’s been dominated by the Bulldogs since 1998.
But shortly after the start, the Zags did what the Zags have done in 10 of the previous 11 games. They ran past, around and over the Huskies for a 97-70 victory that served as a reminder that Gonzaga is still the top team in the state.
“The one thing that I thought they did better than us tonight is they out-teamed us,” UW coach Mike Hopkins said. “And that’s where we got to get. Where it’s the team. It’s everybody. If this is our game plan, we’re executing it. We’re disciplined in our approach.
“We’ll get there. But tonight just wasn’t our night, and I think Gonzaga had a lot to do with that.”
Johnathan Williams, a 6-foot-9 forward, pounded UW inside for 23 points and 12 rebounds while Zach Norvell Jr. had 21 points and Josh Perkins added 14 points and eight assists as Gonzaga (8-2) rebounded from last week’s 88-72 loss to No. 4 Villanova.
“I felt like tonight the urgency on defense wasn’t as urgent,” said Hopkins, who described UW’s effort as a C-game. “We lost Perkins late in the shot clock, which is one of the things you got to execute. … Just some mental breakdowns and that happens with a young team.”
The Huskies (7-3) countered with Noah Dickerson (17 points), David Crisp (16) and Jaylen Nowell (11), who came off the bench for the first time this season. But UW had difficulty generating points early and slowing down a Gonzaga offense that shot 50.8 percent and flushed a handful of highlight dunks.
The Zags scored first and led from start to finish in a game that got away from the Huskies early, much like the past two meetings that were decided by an average of 21.5 points.
Sam Timmins provided one of the few first-half highlights for the Huskies when he spun around a double team in the post and finished with a layup despite being fouled. His free throw cut UW’s deficit to two points (13-11) with 14:18 left.
From there, it was all Gonzaga.
Gonzaga answered with a 10-0 run capped by a vicious dunk by sophomore forward Killian Tillie that put the Bulldogs up 23-11 with 10:29 remaining.
“We didn’t have a sense of urgency like we should have had, like we’ve shown and what we can do,” Crisp said. “We just came out not really locked in. We should have been focused more.”
The Huskies’ deficit continued to grow in large part because UW big men Hameir Wright and Timmins were saddled with foul trouble, and the Zags’ trio of stars Williams, Perkins and Norvell Jr. combined for 29 points. GU led by as many as 19 points in the first half and took a 47-33 lead into the break.
Washington never got any closer in the second half and trailed by as many as 28 points.
“They’re very good,” Dickerson said. “They had a game plan. They do certain things. Our job was to take them out of it and we didn’t do that on the defensive end. On the offensive end, they made it tough for us to score. They play great team defense. They hit threes. They got stops and that’s all she wrote.”
The final minutes were painfully reminiscent of so many recent losses to Gonzaga as the Bulldogs shot 55.9 percent from the field in the second half.
After backup forward Rui Hachimura crammed an alley-oop dunk with 2:16 left, many UW fans headed for the exits as the Bulldogs following chanted “This is our house.”
Playing its first game at Alaska Airlines Arena since 2005, Gonzaga captured its most lopsided road win over Washington.
“We came into a setting that was primed to see how we would react to adversity and I thought our guys just handled it in a spectacular fashion,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.