Mark Few tied the great John Wooden with his 664th career win thanks to a dominant 77-60 win for Gonzaga over the in-state rivals. The win was Gonzaga’s 7th straight against Washington, and 14th in the last 15th. Washington’s last visit to The Kennel required last second heroics from Rui Hachimura for the Zags to secure the win. This time around, the game was over well before the final second ticked off the clock.
Julian Strawther finished the night with a strong double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds after a sluggish start to the evening. Drew Timme was immense, particularly in the first half, on his way to 22 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals. Hunter Sallis had 7 points, 2 blocks, and a steal in another strong performance off the bench for Gonzaga. The Zags took care off the ball as well, “only” turning it over 12 times. Considering the manner in which Gonzaga started the game, limiting that total to 12 is pretty impressive.
If you didn’t catch what I was putting down, the Zags did not have a flying start on offense in this game. In fact, they barely had any start at all. After three minutes, the Zags had six turnovers. After ten minutes, the Zags had one made field goal (a Nolan Hickman 3) on ten shot attempts. The kindest way I could describe that opening stretch is “yuck.”
Now, the defense. Let’s talk about the defense. Gonzaga may have found its defensive mojo in the loss to Baylor (we’re going to keep spinning that loss in a positive direction, folks). If you didn’t watch the game and I just repeated Gonzaga’s stats from the opening 10 minutes, what would you guess Gonzaga’s deficit would be? 20 points? 1000 points? Those are fair guesses, but would have been wrong.
Despite Gonzaga’s opening lap on the struggle bus, our favorite Bulldogs only found themselves in a 12-7 hole thanks to a suddenly stout defense. The Huskies aren’t offensive savants by any means, but they had no chance at pulling away quickly thanks to the tenacity with which their hosts were playing. It was refreshing to see, frankly.
Once the Zags found their mojo on offense and figured out that the zone defense isn’t as hard to decipher as hieroglyphics, the night was over for Mike Hopkins and his team. Timme got things going on offense from the floor, if not the free throw line, and soon Gonzaga was moving the ball with speed and precision. It was beautiful.
As he is doing with increasing regularity, Hunter Sallis was the defensive gamebreaker, and a 2-way coast-to-coast play from him in the second half was the icing on the cake, or nail in the coffin, depending on which colors you were wearing and where your Washington state affiliations lie.
The Huskies certainly aren’t the toughest opponents Gonzaga has faced during this torrid stretch of the season, but they are still an in-state rival and one that just recently beat a Saint Mary’s team that got off to a very strong start to the season. This was an impressive win to stack on top of the building blocks that the Bulldogs are putting together as they piece together the lessons from the first month of the season.