I wrote nearly all of this before 10 a.m, but tight connections kept me from posting it until now.
Entertaining game last night with a closing stretch that pretty much went opposite of the first 36 minutes.
Gonzaga and San Francisco weren’t any trouble scoring – outside of the Bulldogs’ season-high 22 turnovers obviously – as GU took a 65-64 lead with 3:45 left. Both teams were shooting in the mid-50 percent range before defenses took over late, with the exception of Rashad Green’s game-deciding 7-footer in the lane with 3.3 seconds left.
You know the day-after drill.
The links: My game story, San Francisco Chronicle and A.P. Elsewhere, Saint Mary’s lost again in a non-conference matchup with Murray State, but GU’s loss leaves the Gaels alone in first place and two wins from ending the Zags’ run of WCC titles at 11. BYU joined Gonzaga in second place at 11-3 with a road win over Santa Clara.
Green took an outlet pass with about 12 seconds left, raced down the right sideline and worked his way toward the right side of the lane. He powered through Kevin Pangos, who tried to draw a charge, and made a 7-footer.
“I was just trying to keep him in front of me and make him take a tough shot,” Pangos said. “When I tried to cut him off he ran into me. At that point I was trying to take the charge because what else can I really do? They didn’t call it and he made the shot.”
To Green’s credit, he wisely forced the action and forced the refs to decide if it was a charge, block or no-call. The refs went with the latter.
“I wanted to be aggressive and attack,” Green said. “There was some contact but you know refs aren’t going to call something that late in the game.”
My guess is the officials probably wouldn’t have called anything in that situation 80 percent of the time, although this crew did call four charging fouls, two on each team, in roughly a 2:30-span midway through the second half.
—On to the play that generated the second most texts, tweets and emails. It was apparently an inadvertent whistle with 1:07 left where the ball was awarded to USF. I say inadvertent because neither coach knew for sure what was called and the official play-by-play listed it only as a turnover on GU’s Robert Sacre.
Sacre had the ball poked away and there was a scramble near the free-throw line. The whistle blew and most along press row situated in the last row of the upper concourse assumed it was a tie-up. After huddling, officials ruled it was USF’s ball. The consensus from radio and courtside observers was that it was determined the Dons’ Perris Blackwell had possession of the ball at the time of the inadvertent whistle.
Mark Few’s view: “I don’t know. I still don’t understand what happened. Two of the three (officials) were in our favor.”
Rex Walters’ view: “We had possession and … I don’t even know. I don’t know what happened. I know we had possession when the whistle was blown and that’s why we got the ball back.”
Sacre’s view: “I thought it was a jump ball. I don’t know why they didn’t call it a jump. It didn’t seem like they had possession.”
—I mention in the game story that Gonzaga hasn’t had many down-to-the-wire games. After further review, the closest thus far had been GU’s 62-58 win over Loyola Marymount, with the key play being an Elias Harris layup off a Pangos’ feed with 8 seconds left. The basket gave Gonzaga a three-point lead. The next closest contest was GU’s 67-61 win over Oral Roberts. Mike Hart and Gary Bell Jr. hit key 3s late, Hart’s with 3:20 left and
The Bulldogs didn’t execute offensively down the stretch and didn’t get quality looks. Pangos and
“We probably had 7 or 8 of those,” Few said. “We didn’t put any foul pressure on them and we didn’t make plays at the end of them. I need to help them with that.”
—Gonzaga has committed 41 turnovers in two games against the Dons, whose full-court press and half-court traps bother the Zags.
“It was a short prep for this game, but we spent a lot of time on it,” Few said. “They came in a variety of ways.
Not to mention intercepted outlet passes, inbounds passes, a dribble off the foot and a travel or two.
“That killed us, no question,” said Sacre, who had six turnovers. “We just have to work on that. Every time we lose it’s because we have high turnovers.”
“Their press (bothered GU) a little,” Pangos said. “They change it up in the half court and they have a couple of different trapping defenses. Usually we handle it well, but they seem to be effective.”
Green said USF’s variety confuses Gonzaga.
“We give them problems matchup-wise,” he said. “It’s our pressure for sure because they don’t know when we’re going to trap. Sometimes they try to anticipate it but we kind of mess with them a little bit. Sometimes we put the trap on and take it off and I think it gets to them.”
—Gonzaga also has had difficulty defending the Dons, who have three guards capable of penetrating, forward Angelo Caloiaro is one of the better 3-point shooters in the conference and center Perris Blackwell operates effectively in the paint.
USF’s five starters accounted for 61 of the team’s 66 points.
“They hurt us a lot off the bounce,” Few said. “They play to their strengths, they can get into the lane and make plays and they can make 3s, too. We did a little better job in the second half guarding the bounce.”
STATS OF NOTE
—USF battled back from a 9-point deficit with a 13-0 run in the first half.
—Gonzaga attempted a season-low 12 free throws, making 10. In 26 games, GU has had just seven with fewer than 20 attempts. The previous low was 15 vs. Notre Dame. The Bulldogs shot 32 FTs against USF in the first meeting.
—USF racked up 14 steals to Gonzaga’s 2.
—Sacre blocked four shots, giving him 180 in his career and moving him past Ronny Turiaf into second place on Gonzaga’s all-time list. Turiaf was in attendance Saturday.
—Gonzaga made 11 of 18 second-half shots (61.1 percent), despite missing its last four attempts. The Zags were 14 of 18 (77.7 percent) in the second half against
—The game was tied seven times and the lead changed hands nine times. Gonzaga’s biggest lead was 9; USF’s 6.
—USF had been 0-6 vs. the top four teams in the conference (Saint Mary’s, GU, BYU and LMU). The Dons host Saint Mary’s on Saturday.
Few, on getting the ball to Harris on the second-to-last possession: “We got it to him at about eight feet, time on the clock, one-on-one. It just didn’t happen.”
Harris, on Green’s shot: “I just turned around and he was just shooting the ball, a floater. Kevin was buried underneath him. He did his part, he stayed in front of him and (Green) just ran him over; nothing he could do.”
Few, on losing three straight at USF: “It’s a road game against a good opponent. When you play on the road and the other team is good … look across the landscape of college basketball.”
Harris, on losing three straight at USF: “It’s just us, it’s nothing about that team or that building. Every conference team, not just San Francisco, but San Diego, Santa Clara, everybody is giving us their best shot because we’ve been the champ for (11 years).”
Walters, on Green’s last shot: “I’ve said this for a while, he’s one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached. For him to have the confidence and the willingness to make that play less than 48 hours after (missing a shot in the closing seconds against BYU) … it says a lot about him.”