The Gonzaga Bulldogs staged a furious rally in the closing minutes but it wasn’t enough to catch No.23 Notre Dame, which used Ben Hansbrough’s four late free throws to preserve an 83-79 men’s basketball victory Saturday at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind.
The loss was Gonzaga’s third straight. That hasn’t happened since GU lost to Connecticut, Portland State and Utah in December 2008. Four of Gonzaga’s five losses have been to ranked opponents.
Still, there were some encouraging signs for Gonzaga, which was coming off a dismal 81-59 loss to Washington State on Wednesday. The Bulldogs (4-5) made more than 50 percent of their shots in each half and committed just nine turnovers, compared to 25 against WSU.
“Obviously we played a lot harder and competed far, far better than we did the other night,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “That’s all we were asking of our guys. It was a tough environment, just like the other night, but we stepped up and especially competed at the offensive end and did a nice job on the glass. We just didn’t quite finish off plays on defense.”
Notre Dame (9-1) became the fifth team this season to make double-digit 3-pointers against the Bulldogs, connecting on 11 of 20. GU also made 11 of 20 from beyond the arc, including three in the final 90 seconds.
Gonzaga chipped away at a six-point halftime deficit, pulling into a tie at 50 on Marquise Carter’s steal and layup. Tim Abromaitis hit consecutive 3-pointers against Gonzaga’s 2-3 zone and he took a feed under the hoop for a dunk, giving the Irish a 58-50 lead.
Guard Eric Atkins scored the last five points in an 18-4 burst that gave Notre Dame a 68-54 lead with 8 minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs didn’t go quietly. Manny Arop’s 3 cut Notre Dame’s lead to eight with 1:25 left. Elias Harris made two free throws and Gonzaga’s press forced a turnover that led to Steven Gray’s 3-pointer. GU trailed 75-70 with 1 minute left.
Notre Dame misfired at the free-throw line, making 2 of 6 when Gonzaga was forced to foul. Arop banked in a 3-pointer and Notre Dame’s lead was 79-77. Hansbrough hit two free throws with 11.6 seconds left.
After a Carter layup, Gonzaga fouled Hansbrough again and the senior guard made two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining.
Four Gonzaga starters (Harris, Gray, Robert Sacre and Demetri Goodson) fouled out in the final 35 seconds. Harris, limited to 24 minutes with foul problems, equaled his season-high with 19 points. Gray hit five 3s and scored 18 points to go with eight assists. Sacre had a season-high 16 points and six rebounds. Arop added a career-best 16 points and five rebounds.
Notre Dame senior forward Carleton Scott made three 3s en route to a career-high 23 points, 19 coming in the first half. Abromaitis had 21 points and Hansbrough contributed 13.
“They’ve got a nice team,” Few said. “It reminds me of some of the old teams we had at Gonzaga – veteran, senior led, shoot it at all five spots, really move it and kind of take advantage of whatever defensive mistake you make. When you can score at all five spots like that, it’s tough to stop.”
Gonzaga entertains Lewis-Clark State College on Thursday.