Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Q&A: Beat writer Percy Allen’s insights on Washington ahead of Gonzaga showdown

Dec. 8, 2022 Updated Thu., Dec. 8, 2022 at 5:43 p.m.

Washington's Jackson Grant comes in to make the block on the shot by Cal's Jarred Hyder during a game last season in Seattle.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
Washington's Jackson Grant comes in to make the block on the shot by Cal's Jarred Hyder during a game last season in Seattle. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)

Gonzaga will attempt to extend several streaks Friday when Washington visits the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The No. 18-ranked Zags own the nation’s longest home winning streak (69). They’ve won 12 in row against Pac-12 Conference foes, including six straight against the Huskies.

Washington, which hasn’t won in Spokane since 1944, leads the series 29-19, but GU has won 13 of the past 14 dating back to 1998. Ten of those victories were by double digits, but the last two were tight – Gonzaga 81-79 in 2018 and 83-76 in 2019.

The teams have one common opponent. Gonzaga routed North Florida 104-63 in the season opener. Four days later, UW defeated the Ospreys 75-67. The Huskies edged Saint Mary’s 68-64 in overtime to win the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, California. The Gaels were picked second behind Gonzaga in the preseason West Coast Conference coaches’ poll.

We reached out to Washington beat writer Percy Allen of the Seattle Times for an inside look at the Huskies’ injury situation, standout forward Keion Brooks Jr., UW’s good and bad in a 7-2 start and key factors for Friday’s tilt.

Q: The Huskies lost 6-foot-11, 250-pound center Franck Kepnang recently to a knee injury. He wasn’t a starter, but he averaged 22.9 minutes, 9.0 points, 6.3 boards and led the team with 15 blocks. How has that changed the rotation and who needs to step up in his absence?

Allen: Kepnang was the emotional leader as well as a tough and physically imposing defender. His absence is a huge loss for UW, considering he was averaging more minutes than starter Braxton Meah (20.5 minutes per game). The Huskies are a notoriously bad rebounding team and they were also using them together in a big lineup to help with rebounding. Without Kepnang, Washington has turned to sophomore forward Jackson Grant, the former McDonald’s All-American, who made his season debut Sunday and was planning to redshirt.

Q: Keion Brooks Jr., an athletic 6-7 wing who played his first three seasons at Kentucky, leads UW in scoring (16.6), rebounds (7.0) and minutes (35.5). How would you describe his game offensively?

Allen: He’s a veteran scorer who plays downhill and is very aggressive attacking the basket. Brooks knows how to get to his spots around the rim and he’s adept at drawing fouls. He leads the Pac-12 with 7.9 free-throw attempts (per game) and would be averaging more points if he was a better at the line where he’s a 72.7% shooter.

Q: What has coach Mike Hopkins been most pleased with about Washington’s 7-2 start and what keeps him awake in the middle of the night?

Allen: I’m sure Hopkins likes the way Washington has played defense at times. That’s what UW is all about. The Huskies are allowing opponents 63.9 points per game and 39.3% shooting. Those are winning numbers for UW. Conversely, Washington’s struggles to score at times, which proved to be the case during a near 8-minute scoring drought in a 66-65 loss at Oregon State. Entering Wednesday’s games, the Huskies were tied for 330th nationally in assists per game and 226th in scoring (70.1).

Q: What are a couple of keys for Washington to be successful in Friday’s game against Gonzaga?

Allen: Not sure if the Huskies will be able to slow down the Zags, so they’ll have to figure out a way to score points and be resilient when Gonzaga goes on a run that brings the crowd into the game. Hopkins needs to devise a scheme to contain the multifaceted Drew Timme, who appears to be uniquely skilled to defeat UW’s 2-3 zone, while not allowing Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther to go wild on the outside. But before all of that, the Huskies will have to convince themselves they can beat the in-state bully that’s dominated this series for two decades.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Follow along with the Zags

Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.