SPOKANE — Washington put a scare in No. 1 Gonzaga, but the Huskies fell 81-79 against the top team in the country Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs didn’t run the Huskies out of the gym like they did in their recent matchups, but they continued their dominance in the in-state rivalry that originated in 1910.
Washington pushed its cross-state rival all the way until the end.
Sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell capped a sensational 26-point performance with a pair of free throws that tied the score 79-79 with 9.4 seconds left.
However, Gonzaga star Rui Hachimura had an answer at the other end when he hit a midrange jumper near the free throw line over Sam Timmins outstretched hand with just 0.6 seconds on the clock.
It wasn’t enough time for the Huskies as Dominic Green’s desperate half-court heave at the buzzer fell short.
Hachimura finished with 26 points for Gonzaga (9-0), which used its big front line to wear down the Huskies late in the second half.
While the Bulldogs picked away at the Huskies’ 2-3 zone on the inside, GU shut down UW big man Noah Dickerson and held him to just 13 points — well below his season average — before fouling out with less than three minutes left.
Nowell and Matisse Thybulle (18 points and four assists) picked up the scoring slack for Washington, which fell to 6-3.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000 at McCarthey Athletic Center, the Huskies put a scare in the Bulldogs. Washington has lost 12 of its past 13 games against Gonzaga, and had dropped its past two games by an average of 27 points.
The Zags weren’t going to let Dickerson roam unencumbered in the post.
At one point early in the game, the UW big man drew five GU defenders, who forced a tie up and a turnover.
Another time midway in the first half, Gonzaga trapped Dickerson in the corner. Panicked and searching for help, he threw the ball across the court, but the pass sailed into the stands.
Down 40-30 at halftime, Washington began the second half with a 15-2 spurt to take its first lead since the opening minutes.
Nowell dropped a three-pointer from the wing that knotted the scored at 42-42 with 16:51 remaining and stunned the rowdy GU fans into silence. On UW’s next trip, Nowell was alone in the corner and buried another triple that put UW up 45-42 with 16:07 left.
That’s when Gonzaga turned to its front line for four layups and Zach Norvell, Jr. hit a three-pointer during a 12-4 run that gave the Bulldogs a 54-49 lead at the 12:01 mark.
WASHINGTON — Dickerson 4-9 5-6 13, Wright 2-4 0-0 5, Thybulle 6-11 3-3 18, Nowell 10-18 4-4 26, Crisp 3-7 2-2 9, Green 2-7 0-0 6, Carter 0-1 0-0 0, Timmins 1-2 0-0 2, Bey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-59 14-15 79.
GONZAGA — Hachimura 9-20 8-8 26, Clarke 4-11 2-2 10, Kispert 4-10 2-2 13, Perkins 3-11 0-0 9, Norvell 3-6 6-6 14, Petrusev 4-5 1-1 9, Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 19-19 81.
Halftime—Gonzaga 40-30. 3-Point Goals—Washington 9-27 (Thybulle 3-6, Green 2-6, Nowell 2-7, Wright 1-3, Crisp 1-4, Carter 0-1), Gonzaga 8-20 (Perkins 3-7, Kispert 3-9, Norvell 2-4). Fouled Out—Norvell, Dickerson, Wright. Rebounds—Washington 24 (Dickerson 7), Gonzaga 37 (Clarke 11). Assists—Washington 15 (Nowell 6), Gonzaga 21 (Norvell 7). Total Fouls—Washington 20, Gonzaga 16. A—6,000 (6,000).