It was an utter collapse. In crunch time against Washington (6-3), Gonzaga (7-2) went ice cold on both ends which eventually led to the first true road loss of the season. The Zags gave up an 11 point lead in the second half to the Huskies while Washington outscored Gonzaga 17-7 over the final ten minutes. Offensively, the Zags went 1-12 from the field to end the second half. Gonzaga turned over the ball 4 times in the final two minutes. Definitely not the recipe for a W to close out any game against anyone.
The last time that Gonzaga lost to a program from the PAC-12 was against UCLA on December 12, 2015, 71-66 (that was my freshman year in Spokane and one of my first few members of the student body). Saturday’s matchup at the Alaska Airlines Arena was also Washington’s first head-to-head win over Gonzaga since 2005.
It was the transfer show for the Huskies in the upset victory over the Zags. All of their starters didn’t start their collegiate career with UW.
The Kentucky transfers in Keion Brooks Jr. (17 points on 5-12 FG, 8 rebounds) and Sahvir Wheeler (16 points on 5-11 FG, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) were feeding off each other. That duo was the reason the Huskies came back late down the late stretch as both combined for 12 of the final 14 Washington points.
Franck Kepnang was an absolute machine when it came to protecting the rim and acting as the anchor of the Washington defense (only 8 points given up by the Huskies in the second half). The Oregon transfer’s career-high 5 blocks went along with his 14 points on 5-12 FG, 7 rebounds, and 1 steal. No one was getting anything to fall when Kepnang was on the floor.
Gonzaga is one of the best rebounding teams but you wouldn’t have believed that after their performance. Washington won the rebounding battle 36-28 in thanks to Kepnang’s relentless effort on the glass and that was the key to a victory coming into the matchup.
Moses Wood (Portland transfer) and Paul Mulcahy (Rutgers transfer) were consistently hitting from the field. Both combined for 20 points on 7-13 FG and 4-9 3PT to go along with 9 rebounds.
The Zags still needs a go-to scorer when it matters most. That was the main problem I saw from Gonzaga as no one seemed to want to seal the deal. I thought it was going to be Nolan Hickman (17 points on 7-15 FG and 3-6 3PT) down the stretch in his return to his hometown of Seattle but the junior couldn't make his way through UW’s late stifling defense. He shot 1-6 from the field in the second half and didn’t score in the final 16 minutes of play (along with a costly turnover on one the last key possessions of the game). I just expect much more from Gonzaga’s shooting guard and will going forward. Especially against UConn on Friday.
Not to single Hickman out cause everyone for the Zags couldn’t get much to go. Graham Ike was in the same boat after finishing with a team-high 18 points on 8-14 FG to go along with 6 rebounds but faded at times in the second half due to foul trouble and Washington throwing double-teams at him.
With Gonzaga’s balanced offensive attack, t’s going to have to be someone different each night that has to step up in those types of close games. It can’t just be Anton Watson all the time like he did against UCLA.
The bench production is starting to be an issue as well. Braden Huff did have foul problems and only contributed four minutes. The three reserves that played (Jun Seok Yeo, Braden Huff, Ben Gregg) combined for only 13 of Gonzaga’s 73 total points. The starters played a unbelievable 172 of the 200 available minutes.
Gonzaga has a quick turnaround to get back in the win column as the Zags welcome another SWAC opponent in Mississippi Valley State into the Kennel. You can catch the action on Monday at 6 PM PT on ESPN+.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho