The last time Washington and Gonzaga met, Drew Timme was a freshman who came off the bench and played 10 minutes for the Bulldogs.
It’s safe to say the preseason All-American will play a larger role when No. 18 Gonzaga (6-3) hosts the in-state rival Huskies (7-2) on Friday night in Spokane, Wash.
Timme, a senior forward, is coming off perhaps his most impressive performance of the season with 29 points and 17 rebounds — along with four assists and two blocked shots — as the Zags scored the final 11 points to defeat Kent State 73-66 on Monday.
That extended the nation’s longest current home winning streak to 69 games.
“Timme was heroic,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it … he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does. To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”
The Zags were ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press preseason poll, but have dropped because of lopsided losses to Texas and Purdue and a one-point defeat to Baylor. Those teams were ranked Nos. 2, 4 and 12, respectively, in this week’s poll.
Julian Strawther, who scored 14 points Monday and whose 3-pointer with 3:19 remaining sparked the decisive run, insisted Gonzaga didn’t overlook the Golden Flashes.
“Coach Few told us all week that (Kent State) is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16,” Strawther said. “We knew what they were capable of and weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
The Huskies hold a 29-19 lead in the all-time series with Gonzaga, but the Bulldogs have won the past six meetings.
Washington defeated visiting Colorado 73-63 in a Pac-12 Conference game Sunday as Cole Bajema and Braxton Meah scored 16 points apiece. Keion Brooks Jr., a transfer from Kentucky, added 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Jamal Bey had 12 points and tied a career high with five steals.
“We approach it one game at a time. Every game you have, you have an opportunity,” UW coach Mike Hopkins said of facing Gonzaga. “When you’re playing a program that’s kind of been the standard of college basketball for the last 10 years … you have to bring your ‘A’ game. We have to play with poise.”
The Huskies have been injury-prone as guard Noah Williams (leg) hasn’t played since the opener and 6-foot-11 center Franck Kepnang (knee) suffered a season-ending injury last week.
Kepnang’s absence will leave the Huskies with one less body to guard against the Zags’ Timme inside.
Washington players said they used Kepnang’s injury as a rallying cry Sunday.
“PLF was our motto: Play like Franck,” Bajema said. “That man is working every day so hard in practice and games. It’s just terrible to see him like that. We wrote on the board right before the game PLF: Play like Franck. He’s the one that works hardest on our team.”
–Field Level Media