SAN FRANCISCO – Many of Gonzaga’s recent West Coast Conference men’s basketball games have followed a similar pattern. The Bulldogs haven’t necessarily been at the top of their game, but they’ve found a way to win.
It looked like that might be the case again Saturday night, but San Francisco’s Dior Lowhorn took advantage of a second chance, hitting a 3-pointer that forced overtime and the Dons went on to upset the 13th-ranked Bulldogs 81-77 in front of 4,114 at War Memorial Gym, setting off a storm-the-court celebration led by a small, but vocal, USF student section.
“We’ve had a bunch of close ones and we haven’t been taking care of business from the get-go the past few games,” said Gonzaga senior guard Matt Bouldin, who scored six of his 15 points in overtime. “It finally came back and got us. It’s too bad. Even though we didn’t play that well, I thought we were still in position to win that game.”
Instead, the Dons (8-14, 3-4) put an end to Gonzaga’s nine-game winning streak. The Bulldogs (17-4, 6-1) lost a WCC regular-season game for the first time since falling to Saint Mary’s 28 games ago. GU, which plays five of its last seven at home, beginning with Portland on Thursday, dropped into a first-place tie with Saint Mary’s.
The Bulldogs led by seven at halftime, but they were outplayed at both ends of the floor in the second half. USF went on an 8-1 run to move in front 52-49. Gonzaga went back on top 65-62 on Grant Gibbs’ 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:45 remaining.
Gonzaga was still in front 67-64 when Lowhorn, who entered the game shooting 17 percent from behind the arc, missed long on a 3-pointer. The rebound was knocked toward the corner and appeared to be heading out of bounds. GU’s Steven Gray chased the ball down and fired it back, right into the hands of Lowhorn, who was in nearly the same spot on the court.
This time, Lowhorn buried the 3-pointer to tie it, even though he admitted he didn’t feel comfortable launching the shot.
“When you miss a shot and the ball comes right back to you, I don’t think you’re the most confident,” he said. “I could be wrong.”
“My intention was to throw it into the backcourt, but it was a low liner,” Gray said. “I wanted to make them have someone go run it down in the backcourt and take up more time. Maybe I should have thrown it over my shoulder.”
After Lowhorn tied the score with 9.8 seconds left, Gray came up short on a 3-pointer and Dontae Bryant’s 70-foot fling hit the backboard and rim, but didn’t drop at the buzzer.
Lowhorn kept hitting 3s in the extra session, two of them that helped USF to a 73-71 lead. Angelo Caloairo’s 3-pointer gave the Dons a four-point edge. Trailing by three, the Bulldogs had a chance to tie, but Gibbs was fouled before he could attempt a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left. He made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, but he was called for a lane violation.
Kwame Vaughn’s two free throws with 1 second left sealed USF’s first victory over a ranked team since it knocked off the Zags 73-70 in January 2005.
Lowhorn made 5 of 7 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 22 points. USF had five players in double figures. The Dons, a 31.7-percent 3-point shooting team, nailed 11 of 24 from distance.
Gonzaga sputtered in the second half, making just 7 of 20 shots (35 percent).
USF 81, (13) Gonzaga 77 (OT)
Percentages: FG .424, FT .667. 3-Point Goals: 5-18, .278 (Goodson 1-1, Bouldin 1-5, Harris 2-2, Gray 0-5, Gibbs 1-2, Olynyk 0-1, Kong 0-2). Team Rebounds: 39. Blocked Shots: 3 (Sacre, Goodson, Foster). Turnovers: 16 (Sacre 3, Goodson 4, Bouldin, Harris 3, Gray 3, Gibbs 2). Steals: 4 (Goodson 2, Bouldin, Harris). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .475, FT 560. 3-Point Goals: 11-24, .458 (Bryant 1-1, Green 1-4, Caloiaro 3-7, Lowhorn 5-7, Vaughn 0-3, Williams 1-2). Team Rebounds: 34. Blocked Shots: 2 (Caloiaro, Lowhorn). Turnovers: 16 (Bryant, Bruha, Green 6, Caloiaro, Lowhorn, Vaughn 3, Diarra, Blackwell 2). Steals: 6 (Green 2, Caloiaro, Lowhorn, Vaughn 2). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Gonzaga 33, San Francisco 26. A–4114.