Freshman forward Elias Harris made an off-balance 8-foot shot in the lane with 12.6 seconds left to lift the Gonzaga Bulldogs to a wild 85-83 overtime victory over Illinois on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.
Illinois freshman guard Brandon Paul missed a 3-pointer and Harris grabbed the rebound just before time expired. Gonzaga (11-3) survived a roller coaster ride – as well as a quick turnaround from an 83-69 win over Oklahoma on Thursday night – to earn its third victory in six days.
“With as much as we’ve been traveling I’m just off-the-charts proud of how our guys hung in there,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Especially with the nature of the game where we couldn’t do anything wrong early, couldn’t do anything right in the middle and then we showed a lot of poise down the stretch. We got the shots we wanted and dug out a couple of stops. That’s a great sign for us.”
The Bulldogs dominated early, scoring the first 10 points and leading 32-11 at one point. The Zags, much like the first half of the Oklahoma game, were sharp on offense, making 11 of their first 18 shots.
Center Robert Sacre contributed an unexpected 3-pointer on his first career attempt as the Bulldogs built their big lead.
But it didn’t last. After playing turnover-free for the first 12 minutes, Gonzaga had six turnovers before halftime as Illinois closed within 43-35.
The Bulldogs couldn’t shake the turnover bug in the second half and the Illini seemingly took advantage of every miscue. Illinois (9-5), which pulled off a school-record comeback from a 23-point deficit to defeat then-No. 18 Clemson a month ago, received a big boost from reserve guard Jeff Jordan, son of NBA legend Michael Jordan, and pulled even at 45 on Paul’s 3-pointer.
Gonzaga eased back in front 50-45, but the Illini scored the next seven points to take their first lead. They eventually led by eight, 66-58, after Bouldin’s turnover led to Demetri McCamey’s dunk at the other end with 10:30 remaining.
Then it was the Bulldogs’ turn to rally. They pulled within two on Bouldin’s post-up basket and took the lead 73-72 on Bouldin’s driving layup.
Senior reserve forward Dominique Keller, a thorn in Gonzaga’s side throughout, made a layup and a 17-footer to put Illinois in front 76-75 with 1:20 left. Harris scored to give Gonzaga a one-point lead and Steven Gray converted two free throws with 22.1 seconds left to bump Gonzaga’s lead to 79-76.
McCamey missed a 3-pointer, but Mike Davis grabbed the offensive rebound and Keller, who scored a career-high 22 points, drained an open 3 to tie it. Demetri Goodson’s shot was blocked in the closing seconds, sending the game to overtime.
Illinois led 83-80, but Bouldin’s 3-pointer evened the score with 1:40 remaining. On Gonzaga’s next possession, Harris missed a midrange jumper, but Goodson alertly forced a jump ball on the rebound and GU retained possession. Gonzaga called timeout to set up a play for Harris, who caught a pass isolated on the wing about 15 feet from the basket. He used one dribble to work his way into the middle of the key and hit the winner over Keller.
“When we can get Elias the ball anywhere around the basket or even 8 to 10 feet (away), it’s amazing how consistent he is,” Few said.
Gray (20), Harris (19), Sacre (19) and Bouldin (18) combined for 76 of Gonzaga’s 85 points. Kelly Olynyk scored all eight of the team’s bench points.
“They played the other night, flew yesterday and they come out and stick it to us,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. “We got here early, we bused up and just don’t have much energy. I’ve got to find something to do to change games where we spot people 19, 21 points.”
Gonzaga had a season-high 21 assists, seven from Bouldin, but finished with a season-high 21 turnovers, which led to 33 Illini points. The Bulldogs outrebounded Illinois 45-36, led by Harris’ 16 and Bouldin’s nine.
Gonzaga 85, Illinois 83 (OT)
Percentages: FG .559, FT .650. 3-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Harris 1-2, Sacre 1-1, Goodson 0-1, Bouldin 2-6, Gray 2-6, Kong 0-1). Team Rebounds: 8. Blocked Shots: 3 (Harris, Sacre, Gray). Turnovers: 21 (Harris 2, Sacre 5, Goodson 3, Bouldin 5, Gray 3, Arop, Olynyk 2). Steals: 6 (Harris, Sacre, Bouldin 2, Gray, Kong). Technical fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .415, FT .786. 3-Point Goals: 4-24, .167 (Richardson 0-3, Paul 2-9, McCamey 1-7, Keller 1-5). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 2 (Keller 2). Turnovers: 10 (Davis 2, Tisdale, Richardson 2, McCamey 2, Jordan, Keller 2). Steals: 15 (Richardson, Paul 3, McCamey 5, Jordan 3, Keller 3). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Gonzaga 43, Illinois 35. A–20,917.