So...Gonzaga’s good. And you can say that without any qualifier, either: They’re not some scrappy upstarts, or even a particularly surprising national No. 1. They’re undefeated, and have come by their ranking honestly. And they feature one of the best players in the nation, Rui Hachimura. All of those statements were tested Wednesday night, and all of them came out the other side even truer.
Hachimura had 26 points in Gonzaga’s 81-79 home win over Washington, none bigger than a calm, collected jumper from the elbow with 0.6 seconds left.
Washington would miss a halfcourt heave the other way, and the Bulldogs are 9-0.
Hachimura is a 6-foot-8 junior forward from Toyama, Japan, born to a Beninese father and a Japanese mother, and this year he’s finally getting a chance to show off as a focal point of the Gonzaga offense. He’s averaging better than 22 a game now, to go along with 6.2 boards. His well-rounded coming-out performance in the Zags’ win over Duke last month was no fluke; he can do a little bit of everything. (Please do admire that dunk at 2:20 of this video.)
Gonzaga is not accidentally the No. 1 team in the country, and Hachimura is not accidentally projected as a lottery pick in June’s NBA draft, and neither of those two statements are independent of each other.