In the span of a week, Washington went from beating the No. 2 team in America to getting crushed by a cross-state rival that’s also a national power with the backdrop of a sellout crowd.
So what changed between UW’s win Wednesday against Kansas and a 97-70 loss to No. 12 Gonzaga on Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena? The Huskies, as junior forward Noah Dickerson said, did not follow the game plan.
“We didn’t execute the game plan. That’s all it was,” said Dickerson, who scored a team-high 18 points. “Coach told us what to do and we didn’t do it.”
UW executed coach Mike Hopkins’ plan against KU. The Huskies contested nearly every 3-point shot, didn’t allow the Jayhawks to run in transition and never lost composure while playing in front of a pro-KU crowd in Kansas City, Mo.
There was a road map for solving Gonzaga. All UW had to do was limit second-chance points, challenge the Zags’ long 3-point shots, limit the Bulldogs’ transition game and find the openings needed to create high-percentage shots.
But here’s what actually happened. The Bulldogs bullied the Huskies for 26 second-chance points. Gonzaga only shot 22.2 percent from beyond in the first half yet finished 5 of 10 for 50 percent in the second half. Gonzaga only had nine points off the fast break but they came at inopportune moments. Finally, UW went through a four-minute stretch in the first half where it failed to score.
“Just felt in the first half, we did a decent job on the 3-point line and they exposed us, I think, interior-wise for the most part,” Hopkins said. “Second half, they did a really good job defensively and we had a hard time scoring. We’d missed some fouls shots, missed some layups, not finishing great around the rim. Sometimes that happens when you give a team like that the lead.”
Gonzaga quickly built a double-digit lead when redshirt junior guard Josh Perkins threw an alley-oop to sophomore forward Killian Tillie for a 23-11 lead with 10:22 left.
After Dominic Green hit a lay-up, the Bulldogs went down the floor and took a 26-13 lead thanks to Perkins hitting a step back 3-pointer.
That was only the start. Like Hopkins said, the Bulldogs controlled the interior by snagging second-chance points and getting UW into early foul trouble.
Huskies center Sam Timmins and forward Hameir Wright each picked up three fouls before half. By that point, the Bulldogs were 14 of 16 from the free throw line for a 43-25 lead with 2:41 left.
Gonzaga shot 46.5 percent from the field with 28 of its points coming in the paint. UW, on the other hand, shot 44.4 percent but were crippled by long scoreless stretches.
It only got worse in the second half. Gonzaga shot 55.9 percent in the frame and finished the evening with a 50.8 percent clip.
Gonzaga forward Jonathan Williams scored a game-high 23 points. Dickerson led UW with 18 points and 4 rebounds.
“We put a game plan out there and we said no transition points and run out on the 3,” said junior point guard David Crisp, a Tacoma native, who finished with 16 points and 3 assists. “And they got out in transition quick... 3-point line, we didn’t put a hand up. There wasn’t a sense of urgency like we should have had and like we’ve shown that we can do.”
UW still holds a 29-17 all-time series lead yet have lost 10 of the past 11 meetings.
The win against KU created a belief that UW could pose a challenge against Gonzaga.
Instead, Hopkins and the Huskies were left to rue what could have been.
“Not happy. No one should be happy after a loss but I’m proud of them,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been able to play some great programs ... only way you can get that is through experience.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark