The game was over in five minutes after the Bulldogs took a 21-4 lead, but the back-of-the-hand moment in the renewal of the Gonzaga-Washington men’s basketball series Wednesday night came later in the first half. After a made Huskies basket, 300-pound Polish center Przemek Karnowski beat the entire UW team down the floor for a dunk, a foul and a free throw.
Of such miserable efforts are 98-71 (box) defeats made.
In front of the usual sellout at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, the eighth-ranked Zags won for the 10th time in the past 11 meetings with the Huskies, calling into question why many hoops fans in the state insisted on the series’ renewal.
But coach Lorenzo Romar, despite the wire-to-wire humiliation, tried to find some optimism.
“I really feel our team, in spite of tonight, has made some improvements,” he said, “that will be seen over the over our seven-game homestand coming up.”
None of that was visible Wednesday. Completely overmatched, the Huskies (4-4) at halftime were down 47-22, having had no assists and no three-pointers. They shot 20 percent from the field, and their defense was worse.
The Huskies actually had a 54-42 rebounding edge, but that was because they had so many misses of the own errant shots; they won the offensive glass 29-11. That didn’t stop them from falling behind by as many as 34 before Zags coach Mark Few began resting starters.
“You can’t make a mistake against them; they’re a well-oiled machine,” Romar said. “They’re experienced and play well so well together. A really, really good team.”
Twisting the rivalry knife, Nigel Williams-Goss, who played his first two seasons at Washington before transferring, led the Zags (9-0) with a season-high 23 points, five rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes. A prized Romar recruit, Williams-Goss left out of frustration with the UW’s mediocre play and preparation. Little has changed in his absence.
“He’s a good basketball player and makes a difference for their team,” Romar said. “He runs their team better than anyone.”
Highly regarded freshman Markelle Fultz led Washington with 25 points, but many came late. He was 10-for-26 from the floor and had 10 rebounds but, tellingly, he had one assist. The Huskies had only seven assists for their 24 field goals. Teammate Noah Dickerson had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
The Huskies and Zags ended a nine-year snit — Few and Romar don’t much care for one another — last year when the teams met in a tournament in the Bahamas, the Zags prevailing 80-64. The Huskies’ last win in the series, which is contracted to run for three more seasons, came at home in 2005 — they haven’t won in Spokane since 1944 — and the Huskies called off the series in 2006.
Gonzaga has reached the NCAA tournament every year since 1999, and the Huskies have whiffed five years in a row. Little evidence was presented last night to suggest change was imminent.
Washington hosts Nevada at 5 p.m. Sunday (Pac-12 Networks).