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Washington rallies in second half and tops No. 7 Gonzaga 78-73, snaps 7-game losing streak to Zags

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: December 9, 2023, 11:31pm

SEATTLE (AP) — Considering the rocky path of the past few seasons, Washington coach Mike Hopkins wanted his team to enjoy the spectacle of the moment — beating an in-state foe, ranked in the top 10, at home while the students flooded the court.

Keion Brooks Jr. scored 17 points, Sahvir Wheeler added 16, and the Huskies rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the second half to beat No. 7 Gonzaga 78-73 on Saturday night.

The Huskies (6-3) snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Bulldogs and picked up their first win over their in-state foe since a 99-95 victory in 2005, also in Seattle. It was also Washington’s first win over a top 10 opponent since beating Arizona in the 2017-18 season.

“To be with your family, friends — a lot of our parents, the parents of some of our players were there — to do it in front of our home crowd, in front of our city, a team that has had our number since 2005, one of the best college basketball programs in the country, it means a lot,” Hopkins said.

Wheeler was responsible for some of the biggest shots in Washington’s rally, but he had plenty of help. Brooks added eight rebounds and made four key free throws in the final minute. Moses Wood added 12 points and Koren Johnson scored 11 off the bench.

Franck Kepnang also had a big game controlling the paint with 14 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots for Washington.

It wasn’t a perfect night for the Huskies. Hopkins hurt his hand hitting it on the bench during the game and was on his way to see the athletic trainer afterward.

“It was a bad move,” Hopkins said.

Graham Ike led Gonzaga (7-2) with 18 points and Nolan Hickman scored 17. But Washington was able to slow down Hickman after he scored 15 in the first half, and Gonzaga went through a miserable spell of cold shooting in the final minutes.

Gonzaga made just one of its final 12 shots and its only points in the final 7 minutes, 12 seconds came on Ike’s 3-point play with one minute remaining.

Anton Watson finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but the Zags shot just 26%, missed all nine 3-point attempts and had nine turnovers in the second half.

Gonzaga also had its streak of 16 straight wins over Pac-12 teams snapped.

“We weren’t great on getting to our second actions and trusting each other and just tried to make something out of nothing on a lot of those plays,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Just didn’t play with great poise down the stretch which so far this year we’ve done a good job of.”

The Bulldogs led 57-46 early in the second half after the Huskies started the half 1 of 10 shooting, but Washington slowly chipped away. The Huskies pulled even at 66-all with 8:56 left on Wheeler’s fastbreak layup and took their first lead since the opening minute on another Wheeler layup for a 72-70 lead with 3:41 left.

That was Washington’s final made basket, but the Huskies were 6 of 6 at the foul line in the final minutes making some of the key plays that they failed to in close losses to San Diego State and Colorado State earlier in the season.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Some of the Bulldogs role players that have been critical to their early success struggled. Dusty Stromer was scoreless in 28 minutes. Braden Huff had foul trouble and also finished scoreless and played only five minutes. Ben Gregg had 11 points off the bench.

Washington: The Huskies beat at team ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time since toppling Baylor in the 2019 season opener. Washington’s last win against a top 10 team was against Arizona in February 2018.

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