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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga struggles behind 3-point arc, foul line in blowout loss to UConn

LAS VEGAS – Julian Strawther and Drew Timme left the court together arm and arm after Connecticut ended Gonzaga’s season with an 82-54 blowout Saturday at T-Mobile.

It was a completely different scene from Thursday night when Strawther ran and hopped down a hallway toward GU’s locker room after hitting a clutch 3-pointer with 7 seconds left in a 79-76 victory over UCLA in his hometown.

“Just saying that we loved each other,” Strawther said inside a somber locker room. “We had a lot of great moments on the court together and we were able to share this jersey. Just being his last game in a Gonzaga jersey and the last time to share the court together, it was obviously a sour feeling.”

Strawther’s night turned sour after a promising start. He was aggressive at the outset, scoring on floaters and hard drives to the rim. He scored nine points, including a three-point play with a tough finish in the lane, as the Zags took their last lead of the game (25-24) with 5:37 remaining.

Strawther landed hard on his back after being fouled by Alex Karaban on the play. The junior wing immediately grabbed at his back before hitting the free throw.

“Just landed on it, unfortunate,” Strawther said. “Yeah (it was bothering him), but it was nothing I haven’t played through in my entire life. That’s the last thing I’d ever use as an excuse.”

That would turn out to be Strawther’s last basket of the game. He jogged near the midcourt line and then tried several stretches at the scorer’s table shortly before the start of the second half. He made two free throws in the second half to finish with 11 points and six rebounds in 33 minutes.

Strawther and the Zags had a tough shooting night behind the 3-point arc. They entered the game shooting 38.6% from deep, but they endured their worst performance of the season: 2 of 20 (10%).

The only game close to that was GU’s 4-of-18 effort (22.2%) against Michigan State on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. The Spartans were 3 of 16 (18.8%).

Gonzaga also made just 12 of 22 free throws.

“I feel like all the looks were really good, dang near wide-open shots,” said Strawther, who was 0 of 6 on 3s, just his sixth game without a made 3-pointer this season. “It was just on us. The ball didn’t roll our way and they were hitting. It’s hard to combat that.”

UConn, led by six 3s from Jordan Hawkins, connected on 11 of 31 after a slow start. Seven Huskies scored at least eight points and backup center Donovan Clingan added six points and three blocks.

Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther wraps himself in a towel as time runs down in Connecticut’s 82-54 win Saturday in Las Vegas.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther wraps himself in a towel as time runs down in Connecticut’s 82-54 win Saturday in Las Vegas. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

“That’s UConn, they’ve been that all year and that’s why they’re so good,” said Gonzaga guard Malachi Smith, who scored eight points. “They’re clearly better than a four seed. But it also doesn’t help when we go 50% from the free-throw line and 2 of 20 from 3. I feel like if those shots fall, the game is a lot closer and anything can happen.

“We got good shots, I’m not trying to take anything away from them. We got wide-open 3s and wide-open floaters that we (normally) make and we didn’t make them.”

Strawther declared for the draft last year before opting to return for his junior season. He’s one of several Zags who face decisions on whether they’ll turn pro or come back for another season.

“It’s something that I’ll definitely be thinking about at a future time,” Strawther said. “In the back of my mind right now, it’s the last thing I’m thinking about. I’m just thinking about sharing this moment with me and my team.”