Huskies Lose An 81-79 Heartbreaker At The Kennel To Zags

The Washington Huskies strolled into “The Kennel” facing their toughest task of the entire season, against the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

They came out of the contest passing with flying colors, as the Huskies battled and competed to the final possession of the game.

Even though the Huskies suffered a heartbreaking 81-79 defeat in the final seconds, they put together their best performance of the season.

“For the nation to see on national television that, hey, Washington’s pretty good. That’s big for us,” Washington head coach Mike Hopkins said.

Heading into this game, the Huskies were 15.5 point underdogs and ESPN gave them a 8.9% chance to win the game.

At the start of the game, the Huskies came out to a fast start and kept themselves in the game.  Slow starts had plagued them all season long, and starting strong on the road against the Bulldogs was imperative.

During the first half, the Huskies kept themselves in the game by playing tough and methodical defense against Gonzaga.

They were able to stymie the Bulldogs offense enough where they could stay within striking distance throughout the half.

Offensively, the Huskies struggled shooting the ball from the outside and had to settle on making points off transition.

Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell was absolutely sensational the entire night, as he kept the Huskies in the game by scoring from everywhere.

He finished with 26 points and 6 assists on the night, and clearly was the hot hand and go-to-guy throughout the game.

Just when the Zags would pull away a little bit, the Huskies kept close and cut the lead to just 10 points at the half, trailing 40-30.

The Huskies have played Gonzaga several times in the past, but at the half, it felt much different this time around.

They were not getting dominated or blown out like in years past, but rather executed a defensive game plan very effectively.

Coming out to start the second half, Husky fans were wondering if this was another game where Gonzaga would just pull away.

Well….the Huskies had some other things to say about that, as they started out the half on a 15-2 run and looked like the more poised team.

Washington took their first lead of the game at the 15:54 mark, with a score of 45-42. Things were looking up.

“We did a good job in the second half slowing the game down and finding the open man on offense.  We showed a lot of heart and a lot of toughness.”  Hopkins said

The beauty of head coach Mike Hopkins 2-3 zone is that it keeps the Huskies in just about every game.

Gonzaga was not able to find their usual rhythm offensively, and often looked frustrated against the Huskies stiff zone defense.

“It’s a handful!  They adjust really well.”  Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said after the game.

One of the biggest stories of the night was the Huskies continual foul trouble, with their front line players.  The Zags took full control of the size difference down low, with Husky “bigs” sitting on the bench.

Senior forward Noah Dickerson, sophomore forward Hameir Wright and junior forward Sam Timmins each committed their 4th fouls with several minutes left in the game.

Hopkins had to sit his players and stagger the three of them, and still try to find a way to stay in the game.

With foul trouble plaguing the Huskies, Nowell took it upon himself to find his game offensively and keep the Huskies close.

He made layups, jumpers, three pointers, free throws…you name it!  He did it all, and put the Huskies in position to win the game.

Dickerson fouled out of the game with 2:46 left, which was a huge blow to the Huskies, as their inside scoring presence was gone.

With 9.4 seconds left in the game, Nowell hit two clutch free throws to tie the game. The Huskies then needed to get a stop to head into overtime.

That reality never happened, as the Zags were able to hit their star junior forward, Rui Hachimura, in the middle of the paint for the game winning jumper.

His basket made the score 81-79 with 0.6 seconds left in the game.  The Huskies threw up a desperation shot from midcourt that fell way short.

The Bulldogs were able to hold on and earn the hard-fought win, which was anybody’s game in the final minutes.

Hachimura was spectacular on the night, as he tied Nowell for the highest scorer of the game with 26 points, and also chipped in 7 rebounds.

Hopkins stated this past week that the Huskies needed to play their “A” game this week to have a chance, and they nearly pulled off the monumental upset against the nation’s top ranked team.

The Huskies were mentally focused and ready to play this game, even though a moral victory won’t make them feel any better about the loss.

“We our down because we lost, but in the grand scheme of things we showed we can compete with anyone.  You’re not really given the chance to know until you’re put in situations like this, but to see our guys come out and compete like that, I’m just really proud of them.”  Nowell said after the game.

Dickerson finished the night with 13 points and 7 rebounds, while senior guard Matisse Thybulle pitched in with 18 points and 4 assists.

The Huskies (6-3), return to the court later this week for a home game against the Seattle University Redhawks.  The game will be played Sunday, December 9th at 6:00pm PST at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington.  It will mark the last home game for the Huskies, before they head on the road for the Atlantic City Boardwalk Tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Washington vs. Gonzaga Final Game Stats

Below is The Highlights Video From The Game…..