Back with a day-after post from Gonzaga's 77-75 survive-and-advance special over No. 9 Santa Clara.
David Stockton hit the game-winner, a mad dash down the lane finished off by a right-handed layup from the left side of the rim. Sam Dower Jr. provided the foundation for the victory with 23 points, including a 15-of-15 night at the free-throw line.
Here's my game story and John Blanchette's column. Here's a game story from the San Francisco Chronicle and another on Saint Mary's win over Pepperdine. GU takes on the Gaels on Monday in the semifinals.
--The matchup was crystal clear: Could Santa Clara handle Gonzaga’s interior power? And, could Gonzaga contain Santa Clara’s guards?
Answer: Both teams exploited their strengths. The Broncos’ Jared Brownridge was unstoppable in the first half. He got free for a couple of open looks, but many of his 18 first-half points came on contested jumpers. He attempted just four second-half shots as GU tightened its defense.
Brownridge finished with 24 points, Brandon Clark added 14 (but made just 5 of 17 shots) and Evan Roquemore chipped in 12 points. That’s 50 of SCU’s 76.
“They made some tough shots, Brownridge, all those guys,” Dower said. “All the times we’ve played, they gave us a fight but we’ve been in situations like that before. We just stayed focused. We’re a veteran team. We made the right plays down stretch.”
Gonzaga countered with a 44-22 edge in points in the paint. Dower made 4 of 10 shots, but cashed in at the FT line with 15 of 15. Przemek Karnowski made 5 of 7 shots and 6 of 7 FTs for 16 points. The two were obviously productive but they also committed 5 of Gonzaga’s 16 turnovers.
--Gonzaga put the ball in Stockton’s hands with the game on the line. The Zags have typically relied on Kevin Pangos in similar situations but went a different route Saturday. In some previous instances, plays were designed to find Pangos coming off a ball screen. But Pangos was experiencing a tough night, making 3 of 9 shots and finishing with eight points, zero assists and three turnovers in 38 minutes.
Coach Mark Few said he went with Stockton for several reasons. It’s been a strength of the senior guard during situational drills in practice. Gonzaga inbounded the ball from the base line, 94 feet from the hoop, and Stockton is quick in the open court and a quality decision-maker and passer coming off high ball screens.
“I feel really comfortable in those situations,” Stockton said. “We’ve practiced it a lot and I really like doing it. I was pretty confident in the fact we could get a good shot.”
--It’s a common sight around Gonzaga. Director of basketball operations Jerry Krause chatting with Dower. The topic is often free throws. Dower, who makes 84 percent at the stripe, listens closely.
“Every day,” Dower said of Krause’s counseling. “If he sees me missing one … I could make 99 in a row and he’ll see the 100th, and he’ll have something to say. But it’s good stuff.”
--Few stuck with his starters for virtually the entire second half. Dower, Stockton and Pangos played every minute. Karnowski played 17 of 20 minutes. Bell got into foul trouble and played 14 of 20 minutes.
Kyle Dranginis saw extended minutes in crunch time. He contributed a key driving layup with 52.8 seconds left to put GU up by 5. He made 1 of 2 free throws with 38 ticks left to keep the margin at 5. He also swatted John McArthur’s half-court desperation heave at the buzzer.
“I was staying real in tune to the game and trying to pump up everybody on the bench and bring energy when I got in there,” Dranginis said. “There was like 8 seconds on the shot clock and I had a ‘4’ on me. Usually I’m able to drive those guys, I just took advantage of it.”
STATS OF NOTE
--Few picked up his 400th career coaching win. He’s 400-99 in 15 seasons.
--Gonzaga’s 16 turnovers tied its season high (BYU, Feb. 20).
--GU’s 10 assists was its third lowest total of the season (five at San Francisco, eight vs. South Alabama).
--Gonzaga made 27 of 33 free throws (81.8%). The Zags hit 18 of 20 in the second half. The Bulldogs are essentially middle of the NCAA pack (143rd overall) at 70.8 percent.
--Pangos was 2 of 6 on 3s, the rest of the squad 0 of 5.
--Karnowski’s double-double (16 pts, 12 rebounds) was his third of the season.
Dranginis: “That one felt really good because each time we got within two or three points they came back and made a bucket. It happened pretty much for 15 minutes of the second half but we kept fighting. There was nothing else we could do.”
Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating: “There’s winning and there’s misery, and that’s really what it is, but it’s only temporary. I know exactly where we are going. I know where we’ve been, I know where we are going. I know what we have to do.”
SCU guard Brandon Clark: “Everybody on the team locked in and played their hearts out, and did like coach said: Leave everything out on the court.”
Stockton on Brownridge: “What a player he is.”
Few: “It was truly a great win for us. We had to dig as deep as we’ve probably had to dig this year, and these guys did it. They made play after play after play down the stretch, winning plays, and we needed every one of them.”