WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Gonzaga traveled 2,050 miles across three time zones to earn its first road win of the season.
The Bulldogs, less than 37 hours after drubbing Oklahoma State on Friday night, picked up another non-conference men’s basketball victory, pulling away from Wake Forest 73-63 Sunday at Joel Coliseum. Gonzaga, 2-2 on neutral courts, had lost its two true road games (Washington State and Notre Dame).
“It was a silly move to put our team in this position, to play a game 36 hours after we’d got done playing, and that’s with a five-hour plane ride,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “The players deserve all the credit in the world.”
The Bulldogs (10-5) were somewhat sloppy in the first half with 14 fouls and 10 turnovers, but they outscored Wake Forest 37-28 in the final 20 minutes to claim their sixth straight victory. Wake Forest (6-8) has lost four in a row.
Senior guard Steven Gray’s third game back from a back injury went much better than his first two. He had 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Freshman guard Mathis Keita’s second start of the season went much smoother than his first as he contributed 12 points and two steals. Keita, starting in place of Mathis Mönninghoff (ankle) for the second straight game, had zeroes on the stat sheet, other than ‘6’ in the minutes column, against Oklahoma State.
“You go on the road in a tough game, you want a guy like him,” Few said of Keita. “He’s a scrapper. He knows how to play and he has a nice feel for the game.”
Elias Harris and Rob Sacre, who made several key plays in the closing minutes, combined for 26 points and 17 rebounds. Harris has scored in double figures in six of the past seven games. Demetri Goodson added eight points, four assists and four rebounds.
Few called Gray “as tough as they come” following his steady 33-minute performance, which followed a 37-minute stint Friday. Gray made consecutive 3-pointers from the corner to boost Gonzaga’s lead to 62-49 with 8:50 remaining.
Roughly two minutes later, Gray picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench. The Demon Deacons immediately sliced into Gonzaga’s lead, with J.T. Terrell’s 3-pointer cutting the deficit to four with 4:47 remaining.
Gray returned, and the Bulldogs responded with a 9-1 run that sealed the victory. Harris made a pair of free throws, an opportunity created by Sacre’s offensive rebound. Gonzaga had seven of its eight offensive rebounds and 10 of its 11 second-chance points in the second half.
After a Wake Forest free throw, Gray found Sacre inside for a dunk and then the senior guard made a pair of free throws. Sacre’s three-point play boosted Gonzaga’s lead to 71-59 with 2:08 left. Sacre also blocked two shots during Gonzaga’s decisive run.
The Bulldogs were 26 of 52 from the field and 18 of 22 (82 percent) from the free-throw line. Gray accounted for Gonzaga’s three 3-pointers.
“They threw a new zone at us that we haven’t seen them play much,” Few said. “I thought our guys showed some poise, to come on the road and shoot 50 percent and get eight offensive rebounds. The only down side was that we turned it over too much.”
Gonzaga finished with 19 turnovers, which helped Wake Forest to a 20-11 edge in points off turnovers. The Bulldogs offset that with a 42-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Wake Forest made 34 percent of its shots, the sixth straight opponent Gonzaga has held under 37 percent.
The Bulldogs entertain Portland (12-3) on Saturday to open West Coast Conference play.
Gonzaga 73, Wake Forest 63
Percentages: FG .500, FT .818. 3-Point Goals: 3-9, .333 (Gray 3-7, Dower 0-1, Arop 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 4 (Sacre 2, Dower, Harris). Turnovers: 19 (Sacre 5, Harris 4, Goodson 3, Gray 2, Keita 2, Carter, Stockton, Olynyk). Steals: 5 (Gray 2, Keita 2, Arop). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .339, FT .778. 3-Point Goals: 4-17, .235 (Clark 2-3, McKie 1-3, Terrell 1-5, Stewart 0-2, Mescheriakov 0-2, Harris 0-2). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 3 (Walker 2, McKie). Turnovers: 13 (Stewart 5, Harris 4, Terrell, Clark, McKie, Mescheriakov). Steals: 6 (Walker 2, Stewart 2, Harris, Mescheriakov). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime—Gonzaga 36, Wake Forest 35. A—11,003.