Gonzaga returned to Alaska Airlines Arena for the first time since 2005. It didn't go so well for the Huskies.
Ben Arthur provides video highlights and takes a look at Washington’s 97-70 loss to No. 12 Gonzaga on Sunday in front of a sold-out audience at Alaska Airlines Arena.
And here are a few thoughts on the game.
UW’S DEFENSE WAS REALLY BAD: The Huskies executed a gem of a defensive game plan last Wednesday during a 74-65 upset win against then-No. 2 Kansas while holding the Jayhawks to 5-of-20 shooting on three-pointers and 26 points below their season average. You would have think UW had been running the 2-3 zone for years the way the Huskies made KU uncomfortable in just about every way imaginable on offense.
But on Sunday, well, things were different.
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It was clear that UW tweaked the defensive priorities and were intent on negating 6-9 forward Johnathan Williams inside. Against Kansas, the Huskies went all out to defend the three-pointer. That wasn’t the case against Gonzaga, which converted 10 of 28 from downtown. On most nights, Washington can overcome that type of shooting, especially when Zags sharpshooter Zach Norvell, Jr. goes 2 for 11 behind the arc. But what killed Washington was the extra scoring opportunities inside. Thanks to 13 offensive rebounds, GU outscored UW 26 to 7 on second-chance points.
And even thought Huskies made it a priority to limiting Williams, he finished with a game-high 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Every GU starter finished with at least 11 points while the Zags shot 50.8 percent from the field. It was the third time UW had allowed a team to shoot at least 50 percent and not surprisingly, the Huskies have lost every game.
ANOTHER PATTERN IS STARTING TO EMERGE FOR UW: After 10 games it’s become clear that the Huskies are best when they keep the other team off the free throw line. That’s not a huge revelation, but it becomes clearer while examining the past two games.
Kansas attempted just 8 free throws and made 4. Meanwhile, Gonzaga took 26 foul shots and converted 21.
The Huskies are 7-0 when they shoot more free throws than their opponent and 0-3 when they do not.
FEED SAM TIMMINS: Forward Noah Dickerson is arguably the Huskies’ most important player because he’s their most reliable low-post scoring option and leading rebounder. No one is suggesting limiting Dickerson’s touches. (In fact, he should get more shots. Not sure why he’s fourth on the team in field goal attempts and has the highest shooting percentage at 63.1 percent. And his usage rating is best on the team. And those two three-pointers on Sunday. Wow!)
But when Dickerson is out of the game, it may be time to give Timmins a few more chances in the post. Right now his scoring is the result of activity and teammates making plays for him. On Sunday, Timmins showed a glimpse of offensive growth in the first half when he spun around a double team in the post and scored despite being fouled. He’s dunking nearly everything when he used to try and finish with layups. Timmins is first among UW players with a 64.5 percent shooting percentage (20 of 31). Again, not saying he needs to be the No. 1 scoring option. But he hasn’t taken more than five shots in a game this season and that should change going forward.
NOT YET READY FOR PRIMETIME: I asked a couple of UW players if the sold-out crowd and big-game atmosphere had a negative impact on their performance. They said no. But coach Mike Hopkins wasn’t so sure. He said: “I don’t know. I’m learning this team a lot too. So it was a new experience.” It seemed as if Gonzaga fed off the energy generated from the crowd while the Huskies never seemed comfortable in their building.
JAYLEN NOWELL’S OFF NIGHT: Hopkins briefly addressed why Nowell, UW’s leading scorer who averages 17.1 points, wasn’t in the starting lineup Sunday. The coach said he simply wanted to switch things up and gave freshman guard Nahziah Carter his first start of the season. Carter, who averages 4.5 points, finished with 3 on 1-for-5 shooting in 20 minutes. Nowell had 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting before fouling out in 25 minutes. He also had five rebounds and four assists – both team highs.
Given the little wink Hopkins gave at the end of his postgame interview when asked about Nowell, it doesn’t seem as if the star freshman guard will remain on the bench for much longer.