This was a disaster from the moment the Huskies entered the arena, greeted by a full-to-the-brim Gonzaga student section clad in white and red, some of them holding signs that mocked Washington in ways both predictable and clever.
There was a chart forecasting a declining draft stock for UW freshman Markelle Fultz. A sign proclaiming “We Want Bama,” a nod to the UW football team’s tall task in their national semifinal game against the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
And just before the second half of this bludgeoning, there they were, the most prescient words of the night scrawled on poster board: “Only Huskies know how to sit and roll over.”
UW proved that taunt true from the jump.
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The Huskies looked helpless on Wednesday night at McCarthey Athletic Center. They played no defense. They appeared unprepared offensively. They allowed dunks and layups, settled for long jumpers they had little chance of making, failed to space the floor. And so they lost, 98-71, decimated in every conceivable fashion by the state’s premier college basketball program before a sold-out crowd of 6,000.
This was no rivalry game, though it was the first time these teams met on one of their campuses since December 2006. This was simply another easy blowout for the Bulldogs, who are used to pasting overmatched opponents in their raucous home building. But those opponents typically play in the West Coast Conference, not the Pac-12.
“That team is very sound,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “They have a lot of weapons. They can beat you from the outside, they can beat you from the inside, and they have tremendous experience. They have guys that have played and been successful in a lot of basketball games.”
The game did not need to be played past the first five minutes. In that time, Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams scored twice at the rim while being fouled. GU guard Jordan Mathews, the transfer from California, made a long jumper, made a 3-pointer, then made another 3-pointer while being fouled, and the teams headed to their respective benches for the first media timeout with Gonzaga leading 15-4.
Three minutes later, it was 27-6, the Bulldogs cutting and dunking and defending like perennial NCAA Tournament entrants, the Huskies looking mostly like a bunch of dudes who met each other about 24 hours prior.
“I didn’t think it would be like that, the way it got away from us,” Romar said. “We talked to our team about (how) Gonzaga is well known to make runs early in the game and bury teams right away. It was just a little bit delayed tonight.”
Gonzaga (9-0), ranked No. 8 nationally, shot 64.3 percent in the first half and assisted on 11 of 18 made field goals. The Huskies (4-4) shot 21.4 percent and had zero assists, collecting 17 offensive rebounds only because they missed so many putback attempts.
The second half featured more of the same, Gonzaga extending its lead to 34 points, Washington doing what it could to avoid the most lopsided loss in the history of this series. Instead, it wound up the second-worst, better only than a 76-39 defeat in December 1943.
UW trailed 47-22 at halftime, but scrapped enough to trim the final deficit to 27 points. Romar is clinging to that effort as a harbinger of things to come.
“That’s what we’re going to take away from this game,” Romar said. “The way we stuck together and competed in the second half.”
Times have been lean for the Huskies this decade. They haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2011, a drought that appears almost certain to extend another season. Key players have transferred. Star players have left early for the NBA.
But the Huskies hadn’t yet endured an embarrassment like this, a blowout loss on national television to an in-state rival a full decade after UW canceled this annual series. Romar said that decision was made in order to pursue more high-profile nonconference opportunities; Gonzaga supporters likely believe the Huskies got tired of losing, which they have now in 10 of their last 11 games against the Bulldogs.
Adding to the indignity was the performance of GU point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who transferred from UW after the 2015-16 season and now seems poised to lead the Bulldogs to their 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Williams-Goss finished with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists, driving to the rim and showing off the same deft floater he honed at UW. Seven-foot center Przemek Karnowski scored 17 points. Mathews had 14.
Fultz, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, led UW with 25 points and added 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Noah Dickerson added 12 points and 15 rebounds.
“We’ve just got to put it together, really,” Fultz said after expressing the opinion that UW can still make the NCAA Tournament. “We’re just doing bits and pieces at times, but I think this is a great team.”
Fultz’s draft stock, no matter the opinion of GU’s student section, will be just fine.
But his team looks a mess, discarded in a way that suggests Wednesday’s humiliation will not be its last.
Romar vows that better days lie ahead.
“Let’s just see in a couple weeks,” Romar said. “This game tonight, we played a very good team. This is not a reflection of what our season is about to be. I’ll tell you that right now.”