The Washington Huskies Wednesday night nearly rocked the college basketball world.
A valiant effort in the hostile confines of McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane was thwarted when Rui Hachimura’s jumper with .6 seconds left gave unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Gonzaga an 81-79 win over UW.
The Huskies trailed 79-71 with 2:14 left but ran down the Bulldogs until Jaylen Nowell made two free throws with 9.4 seconds left to tie at 79. Gonzaga calmly worked the ball down the floor and found Hachimura, a preseason All-America pick who led the Zags with 26 points, with some room 17 feet away.
He had only six points in the second half under the watch of Washington defensive ace Matisse Thybulle, but drilled the shot to give 9-0 Gonzaga its 12th victory in the past 13 games against its cross-state rivals, who fell to 6-3.
“There’s no consolation in losing, but I told them I was really proud of them,” said coach Mike Hopkins. “I was proud of their poise in a very tough place. It put a smile on my face.”
The Huskies’ 2-3 zone seemed to confuse the smooth-running the Zags machine, which averaged 98 points a game, second in the nation entering the game. Gonzaga missed four shots in a row in the final two minutes to allow the Huskies back in, until Hachimura’s dagger.
The game was far different than a year ago at sold-out Hec Ed, a 97-70 beatdown, or the year before at The Kennel, a 98-71 Gonzaga win. The Huskies this time showed no fear, overcoming early cold shooting and a 40-30 halftime deficit with a 15-2 run at outset of the second half. Gonzaga missed 10 of its first 11 second-half shots.
Foul troubles began to add up for Washington, and Gonzaga capitalized by hitting all 19 free throw attempts. Starters Hameir Wright and Noah Dickerson fouled out and Sam Timmins had three fouls early.
The Huskies out-shot the Zags, 47.5 percent to 42.9, but a 38-30 rebound advantage, including 14-8 offensively, provided extra shots for the Bulldogs.
Nowell led Washington with 26 points and Thybulle had 18. Zach Norvell Jr. backed up Hachimura with 14 points and seven assists before fouling out late.
“We’re still building, still believing,” Hopkins said. “We’re playing a tough schedule, and hopefully these games pay off in March.”
The Huskies host crosstown rival Seattle University at 6 p.m. Sunday.