Gonzaga picked a good time to stop turning the ball over – the last four minutes – and Mike Hart picked an ideal time to make his first 3-pointer of the season.
The Bulldogs were on the verge of pulling away but a string of turnovers allowed Oral Roberts to pull within two just under the 4-minute mark. Hart nailed a 3-pointer, followed by Gary Bell Jr.’s clutch 3 and the Bulldogs held off the Golden Eagles 67-61 in front of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I was frustrated because I came in to get a defensive stop and (Dominique Morrison) scored on me,” said Hart, whose 3-pointer from the wing off a pass from David Stockton put Gonzaga up 62-57 with 3:20 remaining. “It felt good to get one back.”
Same goes for Gonzaga (6-2), which snapped a two-game losing streak by making 51 percent of its shots and out-rebounding the Golden Eagles by 15. Kevin Pangos had 14 points and seven assists and Elias Harris added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sam Dower chipped in 12 points, helping GU to a 23-4 edge in bench points.
The Bulldogs, who improved to 93-7 at the MAC, probably made it tougher on themselves than it needed to be after taking a 57-46 lead on Robert Sacre’s free throw. He was at the line after a flagrant foul was called on Steven Roundtree, who knocked Sacre down near midcourt.
“He thought he got fouled (missing a jump shot at the offensive end) and he thought I was the person that fouled him,” said Sacre, who had seven points and nine rebounds in the second half. “I wasn’t (near him), but for some reason I got near him when I hit the floor.”
Gonzaga’s comfortable lead evaporated with turnovers on five of six possessions. Morrison hit a pull-up jumper over Hart to cap an 11-2 spurt, but the Golden Eagles’ last three possessions yielded just two points, on Morrison’s free throws, and three missed field-goal attempts.
Bell Jr.’s 3 gave GU a 65-59 lead and Pangos’ two free throws with 28.8 seconds remaining sealed it. Pangos made just 2 of 9 shots, but he was 8 of 8 at the free-throw line and he committed only one turnover in 31 minutes.
Gonzaga finished with 17 turnovers, on the heels of 20 vs. Michigan State and 16 against Illinois.
“We can’t do that,” Bell Jr. said. “When we get the lead like that, we can’t turn it over four or five times in a row.”
Gonzaga closed the first half with a 17-2 run to take a 37-29 lead.
“We lost the game in the last eight minutes of the half,” ORU head coach Scott Sutton said. “We just got rattled. We had five of our nine turnovers in that span. We didn’t block out on free throws, we turned the ball over and we didn’t get back in transition.”
The other turnaround in the first half came on the boards. The Golden Eagles stung Gonzaga early with offensive rebounds before the Bulldogs responded.
“I tried to get after them, but they knew they were getting it handed to them pretty good and they have a lot of pride,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We addressed it in a couple of timeouts and I think our depth helped, getting (Ryan) Spangler and Sam in there. Then we could come back with Rob and ‘E’ (Elias). I need to do a better job with that.”
The Bulldogs face Arizona on Saturday in the Battle in Seattle.