Strange things happen when Gonzaga and Santa Clara meet at the Leavey Center. Last year Brody Angley fouled GU's Steven Gray 65 feet from the basket with less than a second remaining. Gray made two free throws and sent the game to overtime where Gonzaga won in two extra sessions.
Last night, the Bulldogs took Santa Clara's best shot and were building a small lead when a plastic pop bottle was tossed onto the court, apparently from the Broncos student section. SCU was called for a technical foul. The home team was hit with another technical foul a couple minutes later when what appeared to be a hot dog wrapper, bound up to about the size of a golf ball, was tossed on the floor. Matt Bouldin hit all four free throws on the technicals and Gonzaga went on to an 81-73 victory.
More below in our day-after post.
First, the links: From the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury-News. My post-game interviews were limited to Matt Bouldin, Josh Heytvelt and Mark Few because of the 8 p.m. start. The Bay Area game stories have several quotes from Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating, especially on the crowd's influence on the outcome.
--We’ll start with Heytvelt, who has been on a roll in the second half of the WCC season. He’s been in double figures in GU’s last eight games and he’s had back-to-back career highs (28 vs. Pepperdine, 29 vs.
Had those performances come earlier in the season, Heytvelt would probably be in the hunt for WCC player of the year. From what I gather, each coach nominates a player and those nominations have already taken place. Matt Bouldin was likely GU’s pick. I believe it’s possible to vote for a write-in a candidate, but Bouldin and SCU’s John Bryant are probably the favorites.
Regardless, Heytvelt is playing at a POY level.
“He’s being very efficient,” Few said of Heytvelt. “He’s taking good shots and his teammates are doing a great job of getting him the ball.”
Heytvelt pointed out that the guards had over 10 assists.
Bouldin didn’t hurt his candidacy, scoring 23 points and hitting 4 of 4 free throws in the final seconds to hold off the Broncos. He also made a key steal from Bryant and fed Steven Gray for a layup that put Gonzaga up 58-56 with 6:40 left.
Bryant had 16 points and 11 rebounds (in 25 minutes) for his 23rd double-double of the year. He was held to 12 points, 11 rebounds in
“We were really poor defensively, especially at the end,” Few said. “Once our guys thought we had the game, we gave them four straight layins. Just poor attentiveness and communication.
“We didn’t guard the ball very good at all, mostly (with) our guards, and Josh didn’t guard Bryant nearly as well as he did in
Kevin Foster, who was just 3 of 12 (1 of 7 on 3s) in
“Their guards were really aggressive,” Heyvelt said. “And Big John, I couldn’t seem to get around him in the post. He uses his body really well. He’s crafty with his arms and body to not let you front him in post. He has so much mass he can hold you off and get an angle basket.”
Gonzaga guards had their hands full with Foster, especially early, and wing James Rahon, who had 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
“(Foster) is just really active,” Bouldin said. “He shoots it from anywhere. It’s tough to play a guy like that, especially at their place, he’s going to come out looking to gun and he’s going to make a lot tougher shots than you’d think.”
--Meanwhile, Gonzaga’s offense was efficient throughout. GU made its first five shots. The Bulldogs had a 4 minute, 40-second field-goal drought early in the second half, but they picked up three free throws during that stretch.
“We moved the ball and probably shared it as well as we have in a while,” Few said. “Jeremy (Pargo) had five assists and no turnovers and really got people a lot of different looks.”
Gonzaga has shot 50 percent or higher in its last four games. The Zags finished at 52.9 percent Thursday.
--After the first technical foul was assessed, Keating scolded the crowd over the P.A. system. “Show some respect for both teams,” he said. “Don’t throw anything on the floor ever again.”
But the message didn’t get through. With 1:55 left, a hot dog wrapper was chucked on the court. After a brief huddle, the referees called another technical and Keating angrily picked up a towel and tossed it down on the SCU sideline.
“That’s a tough break for them,” Few said.
The plastic pop bottle apparently was close to hitting Pargo. Heytvelt was holding a water bottle during a post-game interview and he dropped it on the concrete floor to mimick the sound of the pop bottle hitting the court.
“You could hear it,” Bouldin said. “Jeremy said it got close to tagging him. It’s unfortunate. Their crowd played a part in this game, but it helped (Gonzaga).”
--As expected, reserve forward Ira Brown (ankle) did play, but he was limited to just one minute. Will Foster was the first post summoned from the bench in the first half and he logged four minutes. Heytvelt played 35 minutes.
Austin Daye, who sprained his ankle against Pepperdine, finished with 12 points, five boards and blocked shot. He had three turnovers, giving him at least three TOs in seven of the last eight games. He made his first two shots, then went 2 of 7.
--That’s it for now. I’m getting ready to board a plane for