Gonzaga’s thrilling 71-69 men’s basketball win over San Diego on Thursday night was simply too good to end with the final buzzer.
And since overtime was not an option once a halfcourt heave by USD’s Dana White’s bounced tantalizingly off the rim, Toreros assistant Kyle Smith decided to keep the party alive by storming the scorers’ bench.
Smith, claiming the timekeeper had started the clock too quickly on San Diego’s final possession, ripped off his sports coat in front of the bench and unleased several profanities at the timekeeper. He was quickly restrained, but the timekeeper and shot-clock operator started yelling back and motioning for him to get off the floor.
Toreros head coach Brad Holland mistakenly thought the “Get him out of here” comments were directed at him, so he charged the bench, too, getting in the face of the timekeeper.
Crowd management personnel moved in and broke up the near-brawl before any punches were thrown. But Holland later told Gonzaga officials that the timekeeper had grabbed him by the tie during the incident and a least two spectators sitting near the scorers’ bench confirmed as much to Mike Roth, the Bulldogs’ acting athletic director, who said he would check further into the incident.
GU coach Dan Monson missed the whole thing. When the fireworks erupted, he was in the locker room with his 14-4 Bulldogs celebrating their 3-0 start in West Coast Conference play.
“I hope that doesn’t take away from the game,” he said when informed of the incident, “because it was a great college basketball game.”
It would be difficult for any of the 3,914 in attendance at Martin Centre to argue with Monson’s assessment. Both teams played extremely hard, shot the ball well and defended with tournament-like intensity.
In the end, it was a 12-foot fallaway jump shot by Bakari Hendrix with 15 seconds left that provided GU with its victory margin. But the senior forward’s big basket, which gave him a team-high 17 points, certainly didn’t settle the issue.
San Diego (8-7, 0-3) had two more chances to win it, but kicked the ball away on one possession and ran out of time on the other.
Hendrix could have iced it for GU with 4 seconds left, but missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity. San Diego grabbed the rebound, called time before the clock moved and set up an end-to-end play geared to put the ball in the hands of Alex Parker.
Parker was covered, however, and White ended up launching a running one-hander from just inside the half-court line. The ball hit both the front and rear of the rim before bouncing out.
“There was nothing else I could do,” White said. ” I thought it was good. I thought we were walking out of here with a W.”
When asked if he felt the clock had started too quickly on USD’s last possession, White said yes.
“Usually I can get he ball up court in 4 seconds,” he explained.
Holland said he didn’t know if the clock started too early or not and explained that his only gripe was with the way the timekeeper acted after the game.
GU, which trailed by seven with just under 7 minutes left, got 15 points from Matt Santangelo and 13 from Mike Leasure. The Bulldogs played without shooting guard Richie Frahm, who was having back problems.
Without Frahm, one of its top outside shooters, GU was unable to generate any offensive consistency against the Toreros’ zone defense. As a result, the Bulldogs lost an early 20-6 lead and were forced to play catch-up down the stretch.
“Without Richie, they were able to zone us a little bit more than maybe they would have normally,” Monson said. “We were very tenative against it because we missed some early shots. We just kind of passed the ball around the 3-point line and never got it inside to Bakari.
“Still, I was really proud of our kids down the stretch. I thought they stayed together through some adversity and dug one out. Even down seven, I didn’t think they panicked.”
Nosa Obasohan paced San Diego with 18 points. The backup senior swingman scored 13 of the Toreros’ first 21 points and finished the first half with 16.
GU plays at home again Saturday night at 7 against Saint Mary’s.
Gonzaga 71, San Diego 69
San Diego (8-7, 0-3) - Jacobsen 2-6 0-0 4, Parker 1-4 2-2 5, Knoll 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Miles 7-10 1-2 16, Blackmon 2-2 0-0 4, Williams 5-9 2-2 13, Obasohan 7-12 0-0 18, White 3-6 2-2 9. Totals 27-54 7-8 69.
Gonzaga (14-4, 3-0) - Hall 2-5 0-0 5, Santangelo 5-14 1-2 15, Dench 2-4 0-0 4, Leasure 4-12 3-3 13, Hendrix 7-16 3-5 17, Nilson 0-0 0-0 0, Calvary 4-5 1-1 9, Floyd 2-3 1-2 6, Griffin 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 27-60 9-13 71.
Halftime-Gonzaga 39, San Diego 35. 3-Point goals-San Diego 8-16 (Jacobsen 0-1, Parker 1-1, Smith 0-3, Miles 1-1, Williams 1-1, Obasohan 4-7, White 1-2), Gonzaga 8-19 (Hall 1-3, Santangelo 4-10, Leasure 2-4, Floyd 1-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-San Diego 30 (Miles 6), Gonzaga 33 (Hendrix 6). Assists-San Diego 15 (Miles, Obasohan, White 3), Gonzaga 16 (Leasure 6). Total fouls-San Diego 15, Gonzaga 9. Attendance-3,914.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo