SAN DIEGO – Gonzaga went on the road in search of an outright WCC men’s basketball championship. The Bulldogs are coming home with their first conference losing streak since dropping three straight in 2011.
San Diego added to 25th-ranked Gonzaga’s road misery with a 69-66 victory late Saturday night in front of 4,126 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. All three of Gonzaga’s conference losses have come on the road, including Thursday’s loss to BYU.
It was the Toreros’ first victory over Gonzaga since the 2008 WCC Tournament title game on their home floor, a span of 11 games.
“When the good teams come in here, they’ve played them really tough,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the Toreros. “They got after us, made shots and executed their offense. Again, it was anybody’s game down the stretch and they made plays and got offensive rebounds to extend possessions.”
San Dower Jr. and Przemek Karnowski combined for 35 points and Gary Bell Jr. added 11 points for Gonzaga (23-6, 13-3 WCC). Dower grabbed 15 rebounds and had four assists. Karnowski fouled out with 4:04 remaining.
Gonzaga shot 50 percent, but was outscored by 17 at the free-throw line. Johnny Dee led the Toreros (16-14, 7-10) with 16 points and Duda Sanadze added 15 points, 13 in the second half.
“This time we got over the hump finally,” Dee said. “My freshman year we had a tie game (vs. Gonzaga) with 4 minutes left. My sophomore year we were up six with 6 minutes left. This was the same kind of game. We played them well up there (in a 59-56 loss) so to finish down the stretch, score baskets and not turn it over was a great thing to see.”
The Bulldogs made 8 of their first 10 shots and took a 19-12 lead that proved to be short-lived. San Diego pulled even at 19 as Gonzaga endured a 4:20 dry spell.
The Zags went back on top by five but the Toreros rallied to take their first lead, 36-34, on Christopher Anderson’s 3-pointer – his only field goal of the half – just before the horn. San Diego offset 39.3-percent shooting by making 10 free throws.
San Diego held on to the momentum in the second half. The Toreros went on a 13-4 run, capped by Sanadze’s 3-pointer over Dower’s outstretched hand, to open up a 49-38 lead.
The Bulldogs battled back, limiting USD to just one field goal over a 6:35 stretch. GU pulled within 56-53 but missed chances to move closer when Dower, an 84-percent free-throw shooter, made just 1 of 3 and Karnowski went 1 of 2.
San Diego stretched its lead to 60-53 with 7 minutes left. Gonzaga trimmed the deficit to three on three occasions, but stalled in crunch time as Pangos committed three turnovers in the final 4:45. It appeared Gonzaga, trailing 64-61, might have a chance to tie it but Anderson rebounded Sanadze’s missed shot. Dennis Kramer’s free throws bumped San Diego’s lead to five.
“Both (the San Diego and BYU games) have been very similar,” Few said. “It’s hard to pinpoint either one, offense or defense, because we’re not consistently getting stops (with the) way we started the game and the second half again. On offense, we find some success going one way and we just don’t keep doing that.”
David Stockton made a 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left to cut USD’s lead to 67-66. Sanadze hit two free throws with 0.1 seconds left to end it.
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