It was pretty much an inside job.
San Diego State senior forward Billy White poured in a career-high 30 points and the Aztecs enjoyed a 39-29 rebounding edge, which fueled a 79-76 men’s basketball victory over 11th-ranked Gonzaga in front of 6,000 Tuesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
White scored 11 straight points in a 2-minute, 40-second span as No. 25 San Diego State stretched its lead to 61-57. He had 18 of his 30 points in the second half, easily eclipsing his previous career best of 24 points.
Gonzaga (2-1) was powerless in defending White or keeping the Aztecs (2-0) off the glass. San Diego State grabbed 18 offensive boards to create a 24-10 edge in second-chance points.
The Aztecs needed every one of White’s points and their superior board work to offset Steve Gray’s career-high 35 points. Gray scored 14 of GU’s final 15 points, including a 4-footer that closed SDSU’s lead to 77-76 with 23.6 seconds left. After Kawhi Leonard made two free throws, Gray lost the ball on the perimeter and his desperation save was retrieved by the Aztecs.
The Aztecs’ Chase Tapley missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 4.9 seconds left, but Gray was forced to fire from just inside the midcourt line. His shot came up short and the Aztecs celebrated a hard-fought win.
Gonzaga dropped to 77-5 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gonzaga trailed by as many as 10, but fought back within 42-37 at halftime, thanks to Demetri Goodson’s three-point play and 3-pointer in the final 97 seconds.
Leonard and White each scored 12 first-half points. They also combined for 11 rebounds, five on the offensive end, which helped the Aztecs build a 12-7 edge in second-chance points. The Aztecs didn’t shoot well from the perimeter, but Leonard, White and Co., stung the Zags with 22 points in the paint.
Points didn’t come easily for the Zags against the Aztecs’ man-to-man defense. Gray had a hard-earned 15 points by intermission and Rob Sacre was effective before picking up his second foul with 7:28 left. Elias Harris was a non factor, missing both his shots. He finished with five points, and limped off the court with a leg injury late in the game.
Gonzaga faces third-ranked Kansas State at the CBE Classic in Kansas City on Monday. No. 1 Duke meets Marquette in the other half of the bracket.