Slow-starting this morning, a little like last night's Gonz …
Wait, that's too predicable. Let's just get right to Wednesday's game that Gonzaga won, lost and won again on Sam Dower Jr.'s clutch 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left. The final count of 54-52 gives an indication that this one won't end up in an art gallery but that last play will stick in the minds of Gonzaga followers for a long time.
It was a scramble last night with the late start and crazy finish, a little like …. ah, never mind. Read on for my day-after post.
—Sam Dower’s back might not be 100 percent yet, but his shoulders are fine. He carried Gonzaga into the winner’s circle with a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left.
The first option, as it was on the two previous plays, was Kevin Pangos. This time it was on a flare screen, but the Broncos stayed with the junior guard. Kyle Dranginis ended up with the ball and time fading away. He angled to the right and had a couple of SCU defenders close to him, including Yannick Atanga, who temporarily left Dower to double Dranginis. Dower popped out near the top of the key, Dranginis found him and Dower delivered the victory.
“I’m happy for him, man,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s had these games sometimes where he struggles along and struggles along but he seems to continue to make shots one way or another. We didn’t get the look we wanted to off that action but we were able to pop it to him and when it left his hand it looked pretty good.”
Indeed. The 6-9 Dower is now 5 of 10 on 3s this season.
Dranginis started to guide me through the last play but he acknowledged it got a bit hazy at times.
“They guarded the play well, we didn’t have the flare to Kevin,” Dranginis said. “So I think Sam came out and set a ball screen or something, I don’t really know. I punched it to the right and Sam’s guy came to help on me and I saw him.
“We just kind of winged it.”
—The Zags were solid on defense. Santa Clara had issues scoring all night, but GU’s second-half zone noticeably put the brakes on the Broncos’ offense, until the final minutes.
SCU made four field goals in the first 15-plus minutes of the second half. Then Atanga scored on a putback, Evan Roquemore made a 3-pointer while being fouled by Dower, Brandon Clark made three baskets, including a rainbow over Przemek Karnowski that kissed high off the iron before settling in the net, and Roquemore buried another 3.
It was enough for the Broncos to rally out of a 49-39 deficit and take a 52-51 lead. After Dower’s shot, SCU ran a well-designed play that gave Jared Brownridge a decent look from 40 feet but it was off line.
“We were able to at least stick with it and show some maturity,” coach Kerry Keating said, “where I think in the past we may not have.”
Bell, and at times Dranginis, did a nice job on Brownridge, who had 30-point nights in his previous two games. Clark scored half of his 12 points in the final 3:10, two on floaters. Roquemore picked up the slack with four 3s and 15 points.
SCU’s guards are its offense. The Broncos had little production inside, with the exception of redshirt freshman Nate Kratch’s 8-point first half.
—Meanwhile, Gonzaga’s offense slipped in and out of gear, slowed in the first half by another LMU-esque flurry of missed shots from close range.
GU’s guards, electric vs. BYU, were struggling until Gary Bell Jr. found the range in the second half with three 3s and Dranginis added another trey. The Bulldogs led by as many as 10 and was in the bonus for the last 13:50 but couldn’t put the Broncos away.
Pangos made just 1 of 7 shots and finished with four points and four assists. Still the coaching staff demonstrated its level of trust in Pangos by designing the last two plays with him as the first option. On the first one, Pangos had an open look from 16 feet, but the ball rattled in-and-out.
David Stockton had a tough night with two points on 1-of-5 shooting and three turnovers. Dranginis’ 3 accounted for his only points. He had four boards and his only assist of the game was timely, to say the least.
Bell went for 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Much like Clark’s floater in the closing seconds that touched the rim four times, Bell hit a free throw with 1:53 left that danced on the iron for a while before falling.
“Gary’s 3s were huge,” Few said, “to kind of just get us going a little bit and to open up the dam so the water could start flowing.”
STATS OF NOTE
—Gonzaga was 0 of 3 on 3s in the first half, 5 of 9 in the second half.
—Gerard Coleman had 18 active minutes, with six points, four boards, two assists and three turnovers.
—Dower was 6 of 6 at the FT line, bumping his season percentage to 86.2.
—Bell was 4 of 4 and he’s making 87.2% for the season.
—Pangos made 2 of 2 FTs and sits at 91.4%.
—Clark was 0 of 6 on 3s.
—Brownridge had attempted 21 3s in his previous two games. He was 0 of 1 vs. GU. He had taken 35 shots vs. USF and BYU. He had seven attempts against the Bulldogs.
Dower on SCU: “Those guys are tough, they defended us well. I tip my hat to them. We stuck together an ended up getting a big win.”
Few on SCU: “They always play very inspired here and it’s always kind of a wrestling match. And it was.”
Pangos on the play that freed him for an open 16-footer with 1:05 left: “There’s a lot of options to that one. One is me coming off for a shot or a floater, also there’s a big man we’re looking for or a guard going to the 3-line.”
Pangos on what he said during a post-timeout, on-court huddle with SCU leading 31-24: “It was time to really step up and get three stops in a row and really work the ball on offense. I just told them to leave it all out there and they responded.” (GU took the lead with an 11-0 run.)