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Zags lose Harris, game

Back with the game story from Wake Forest's 77-75 win over Gonzaga on Saturday. The game took a U-turn when GU freshman forward Elias Harris was tossed for a flagrant technical foul late in the first half.

Read my unedited game story below, and check back tomorrow morning for a day-after post.

By Jim Meehan

Gonzaga had the upper hand, until a misplaced elbow turned the momentum.

Cruising with a nine-point lead late in the first half, Bulldogs freshman forward Elias Harris was ejected for a forearm to the throat of Wake Forest’s Chas McFarland – seconds after Matt Bouldin was whistled for a foul on C.J. Harris’ 3-pointer.

C.J. Harris made 2 of 3 free throws for Bouldin’s foul and both freebies for Harris’ flagrant technical. When Ari Stewart buried a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, Wake Forest essentially had a seven-point play in the span of 14 seconds.

The surge and Stewart’s blazing perimeter shooting continued as the Demon Deacons built a 14-point second-half lead, then weathered a spirited comeback by the 17th-ranked Bulldogs for a 77-75 men’s basketball victory in front of 6,000 Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. It was Gonzaga’s fourth loss in 69 games on its home court.

Harris, Gonzaga’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, watched the second half on television in the locker room. It appeared McFarland caught Harris earlier with an elbow.

“I saw the replay on TV, too, and I didn’t even recognize that he clipped me with the elbow,” Harris said. “I just stepped back and just normal underarm on his chest and went for the rebound. He just fell.”

McFarland said Harris’ elbow struck him in the Adam’s apple.

“That was huge,” McFarland said of the momentum shift. “He’s a great player and that took him out the rest of the game.”

Gonzaga (6-2), which led by 13 with 7:50 left in the first half, trailed 34-33 at half when Stewart made another 3-pointer with two seconds left. The 6-foot-7 freshman made two more 3s in the second half, the last helping stake Wake Forest to a 55-41 lead, and finished with 17 points in 14 minutes.

The Bulldogs, without Harris and with limited production from center Rob Sacre, found a spark from reserve forward Bol Kong. He matched Stewart’s 4-of-4 3-point shooting to spur Gonzaga’s rally. Bouldin and Steven Gray made repeated trips to the free-throw line and the Bulldogs pulled within 72-71 on Kong’s 3 with 2:49 remaining.

“I tried to stay focused and ready and I knew at some point my time would come,” Kong said. “You almost felt like you had an extra player on the team when the crowd gets into it.”

C.J. Harris, who made 13 free throws on his way to 19 points, made two foul shots. After Bouldin’s driving layup, Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu, saddled with foul trouble most of the game, dunked off an alley-oop pass from Ishmael Smith to restore a three-point lead.

After Gray missed a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring, Aminu misfired on two free throws with 31.5 seconds left. Bouldin missed a step-back 3, but Gonzaga got the rebound and Gray was fouled on a 3-point attempt.

Gray, an 82.4 percent free-throw shooter, made the first, but was short on the next two. Stewart’s free throw made it 77-74 and the Demon Deacons didn’t permit another 3-point attempt, fouling Bouldin in the back court. He made the first and missed the second on purpose, but he also missed the rim, firing the ball hard off the backboard. Wake Forest threw a long inbound pass that Gray deflected but time ran out as he saved the ball near the sideline.

Gonzaga made just 21 of 34 free throws (61.8 percent). Wake Forest had 16 offensive rebounds en route to a 42-36 edge on the glass and a 14-9 advantage in second-chance points.

What hurt Gonzaga even more was the Demon Deacons’ shooting. Suspect entering the game at 31.6 percent from beyond the arc and 63.6 percent at the free-throw line, they made 8 of 15 3s and 21 of 28 free throws.

“We don’t want to shoot too many 3s,” said coach Dino Gaudio, whose club launched 36 3s in a loss to William & Mary. “I don’t even know if I’m comfortable with us shooting 15 3s, but we had the right guys shooting them.”

Bouldin had 22 points and five assists. Gray scored all 11 of his points in the second half.

“We have to change a few things, come out stronger and if we build a lead not lose it so quickly,” said freshman wing Manny Arop, who contributed nine points, nine rebounds and four assists. “There was a point where the lead just shifted and we have to keep our composure, even when one of our best players gets ejected. That was a turning point and then we were fighting back the whole time.”

Gonzaga displayed plenty of fight, but couldn’t duplicate its come-from-behind wins against Colorado, Cincinnati and WSU from the last two weeks.

 

 




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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