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Gonzaga’s team defense leashes Husky offense

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 11, 2017, 5:48 p.m.

Washington’s Noah Dickerson tries to maneuver inside against Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams as Zach Norvell Jr. looks on in the second half. (ELAINE THOMPSON / AP)
Washington’s Noah Dickerson tries to maneuver inside against Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams as Zach Norvell Jr. looks on in the second half. (ELAINE THOMPSON / AP)

Gonzaga had a big night offensively in Sunday’s 97-70 road victory over Washington.

Big enough to cast a bit of shadow over the Zags’ defense, which kept a capable Husky offense in check, perhaps better than the final numbers indicate.

Jaylen Nowell, David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle, UW’s primary guard threats, combined to shoot 11 of 29. Nowell and Thybulle were held seven points below their per-game average. Crisp scored 16 points, 11 in the second half when the Zags lead was hovering around 20.

“We knew their guards if they make two shots they might run off five straight,” GU senior guard Silas Melson said. “That was one of the keys, not letting them get into the rhythm.”

It wasn’t any easier for Washington’s bigs. Post Noah Dickerson was effective with 18 points, including his first two 3-pointers of the season, but he turned it over four times.

Gonzaga utilized full-court pressure early and aggressive traps on Husky guards working off high ball screens in half-court offense. The tactic seemed to speed up the Huskies and miscues or bad decisions often followed.

“We were a little bit more one-on-one than we’ve been in the last week,” first-year coach Mike Hopkins said.

Crisp, often defended by Melson, was out of control on a drive underneath and his pass was intercepted, leading to a Zach Norvell Jr. dunk. Nowell dribbled around a perimeter screen and drove the right side of the lane only to find three Zags. He was tied up by Norvell.

Josh Perkins had four steals and Melson and Norvell each had one.

“Silas is a lockdown defender, he’s been that since he’s been here,” Norvell said. “He has a dog and grit mentality about him and we need it.”

Washington was reasonably efficient, shooting 47 percent, but the Huskies had limited success beyond the arc (7 of 19) and at the free-throw line (11 of 19). They had just six offensive boards as Gonzaga won the boards 40-27.

UW, which averages 80.6 points, needed a 15-point burst, two buckets coming on dunks against a GU zone, in the final 5:50 to reach 33 in the first half.

“They made it tough for us to score. They play great team defense,” Dickerson said. “They hit 3s, got stops. All she wrote.”

Nowell, Washington’s leading scorer at 17.8 points, didn’t start for the first time.

“I just felt like Nahz (Carter) defensively would be a little bit better,” said Hopkins, concluding his remarks with a wink.

Nowell never really got started after entering early in the first half. He made his first field goal with 90 seconds remaining in the half. He fouled out with 11 points in 25 minutes.

Norvell saw the majority of time on Nowell with Melson and Perkins coming into the equation in transition or on switches. Nowell turned down an open 3-pointer – perhaps mindful of his 26-percent accuracy from deep – only to misfire on an off-balance, mid-range jumper.

“He’s a talented freshman,” Perkins said of Nowell, “but my guys did a great job. Snacks (Norvell’s nickname) was making things tough on him. Si did the same thing.”


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