Put it on the line
GU offsets Bouldin’s absence with frenzy of free throws
SEATTLE – The Gonzaga Bulldogs have had issues at the free-throw line the last few games, but they got plenty of practice at the stripe Saturday.
Without two-time All-WCC guard Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga turned to its inside tandem of Elias Harris and Rob Sacre, sprinkled in several full-court dashes by Demetri “Meech” Goodson and made a living at the foul line. It added up to a 103-91 Battle in Seattle victory over Davidson, GU’s first win at KeyArena since 2005.
Harris (27 points), Sacre (23) and Goodson (22) all had career highs. Gonzaga attempted 54 free throws, breaking the school record by one, and cashed in 41 times (75.9 percent). The aforementioned trio was 32 of 45 at the line. Davidson was whistled for 34 fouls.
“We wanted to really try to establish those two guys (Harris and Sacre),” head coach Mark Few said. “I knew we had a decided advantage in there. Those guys did a great job understanding that, they drew a lot of fouls posting up and Meech was just pushing it. He was attacking all the time.”
Bouldin said he was still feeling some effects from Wednesday’s head-to-head collision with an Augustana player. He watched the game from the bench in street clothes.
Despite repeated stoppages in play – for fouls, timeouts, video reviews by the officials – the Bulldogs (8-2) were efficient throughout. They made 11 of their first 12 shots from the field. After some early misfires, they hit 80 percent of their free throws in the second half. Gonzaga’s 103 points were its most since scoring 105 against Saint Mary’s in 2001.
“We had a good inside-outside game,” said Harris, who made both his 3-pointers and 7 of 9 shots overall. “We just passed the ball and it gave us a lot of options to score easy buckets or go to the free-throw line.”
The teams traded surges in the first half. Gonzaga bolted in front 24-15 only to watch the Wildcats catch fire from long range. Brendan McKillop, son of head coach Bob McKillop, made his fourth 3 of the half – and the team’s fourth 3 in a 2-minute, 30-second stretch – as Davidson moved in front 35-28.
Gonzaga rattled off the next 17 points – 10 coming at the free-throw line – to claim a 45-35 lead. It didn’t last long as the Wildcats (2-7) buried two more 3s and scored 10 of the last 12 points, narrowing GU’s lead to 47-45 at half.
The Zags opened the second half with a 17-8 run, all but two of the points coming from Harris, Sacre and Goodson. The lead grew to 78-60 after Goodson penetrated for an easy basket with 9:25 left.
“Coach has been telling me I haven’t been pushing the ball, which I haven’t been doing,” Goodson said. “I wanted to push the tempo and throw the ball inside and we were able to do that.”
Davidson, which had attempted 191 3-pointers in eight games to Gonzaga’s 140 in nine, kept it interesting by draining five 3s to pull within 88-78. The Wildcats finished 14 of 23 on 3s, including one 26-footer by McKillop.
“They shot it well,” said guard Grant Gibbs, who started in place of Bouldin. “There were a couple of instances where we kind of left them and they knocked it down and got their confidence going.”
Davidson was forced to foul and Gonzaga scored 10 of its last 12 points at the free-throw line.
Steven Gray had 16 points, Bol Kong chipped in nine points in 15 minutes and Gibbs grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. The Wildcats, led by freshman Jake Cohen’s 16 points, had six players in double figures and made 51 percent of their shots.
Bouldin hopes to be ready when the 21st-ranked Bulldogs take on No. 8 Duke at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
“Coach told us if one guy goes down it shouldn’t faze us,” Sacre said. “I knew guys would step up, Grant stepped up big time. … I don’t want to say it was a great thing (playing without Bouldin), but it was a good thing for the team to see how we can be successful without him.”
Gonzaga 103, Davidson 91
Percentages: FG .508, FT .630. 3-Point Goals: 14-23, .609 (Cohen 1-2, McKillop 5-7, Kuhlman 3-4, Archambault 0-1, Cochran 2-2, Barr 1-4, Allison 2-3). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 3 (Cohen 2, Allison). Turnovers: 15 (Cohen, McKillop 6, Kuhlman 4, Archambault, Nelms, Allison, Team). Steals: 5 (Cohen 2, McKillop 2, Kuhlman). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .636, FT .759. 3-Point Goals: 6-12, .500 (Harris 2-2, Gibbs 0-2, Gray 3-5, Olynyk 0-1, Kong 1-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Harris 2, Gray). Turnovers: 14 (Harris, Sacre, Goodson 6, Gibbs 3, Vilarino, Olynyk, Kong). Steals: 5 (Harris, Goodson, Gibbs, Vilarino 2). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Gonzaga 47, Davidson 45. A–13,176.