Thu., Feb. 25, 2016
Zags rout USD 82-60
Back with my unedited game story from Gonzaga's 82-60 win over San Diego.
The Zags stayed tied with Saint Mary's at the top of the WCC. The conference title will be determined on the last day of the regular season when GU visits BYU and Saint Mary's visits San Francisco. GU wins the title solo with a win and a Gaels loss. GU and Saint Mary's share the crown with victories with the Gaels taking the No. 1 seed in the WCC Tournament. A BYU win and SMC loss creates a three-way tie that drops Gonzaga to the third seed, behind No. 2 SMC and No. 1 BYU.
My unedited game story is below. Day-after post coming in the a.m.
By Jim Meehan
SAN DIEGO – After all the non-conference ups and downs, all the conference ups and downs, Gonzaga has an opportunity Saturday to earn at least a share of another WCC championship.
The Zags put themselves in that position by shutting down San Diego 82-60 in front of a 4,076 Thursday at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Gonzaga has followed its last 12 losses with victories, a span of 75 games dating back to February 2014.
“Great response,” coach Mark Few said. “It was a tough week for the guys. We pushed and prodded and tried to get them back playing the way we were playing prior to (Saint Mary’s) last Saturday. I’m so proud of them for that (because) it’s not easy.”
Gonzaga, which has won or shared 14 of the last 15 WCC titles, faces BYU (22-8, 13-4) in Provo on Saturday. A victory would give the Zags (22-7, 14-3) at least a co-championship. A loss drops Gonzaga to the third seed at the WCC tournament. Saint Mary’s (23-4, 14-3) visits San Francisco on Saturday.
“Right where we’re supposed to be,” said senior guard Kyle Dranginis, who contributed 12 points and three assists. “And it’s still not going to be easy. We have a tough one Saturday but we’re going to be ready to fight and come out swinging.”
It took awhile for the Zags to deliver the knockout punch against last-place San Diego, but once they did the score got out of hand in a hurry. Gonzaga led 36-29 early in the second half when it rattled off 12 unanswered points, the last six by Domantas Sabonis.
The margin was 18 when Silas Melson hit a corner 3-pointer, made two free throws and added a steal and three-point play, hiking Gonzaga’s lead to 68-41 with 8:24 remaining. The Zags led by 32 before the Toreros scored the last 10 points.
Melson scored a career-high 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Sabonis finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds, helping Gonzaga to a 45-28 edge on the boards. Kyle Wiltjer scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. Josh Perkins added 10 points.
“This whole month I’ve just been confident, coming in a lot more comfortable and looking to score more,” said Melson, who has been in double figures in four of the last five games. “It’s paying off.”
Gonzaga led by 12 midway through the opening half. With Sabonis struggling early – an 0 of 5 start against USD shot-blocker Jito Kok – and Wiltjer attempting just three first-half shots, the Zags turned to other scoring sources.
Dranginis made a pair of 3-pointers and Perkins and Melson each had six points.
“In the second half we got Wiltjer going and Domas finally got going, but those guards stepped up and made shots, and that’s big,” Few said. “We don’t seem to struggle when they do that.”
Sabonis kept working and scored over Kok to give GU a 29-19 lead with 2:26 left. San Diego was within 32-24 and appeared to pull closer but Cameron Neubauer was called for traveling as his 3-pointer dropped through the net.
Gonzaga led 32-24 at the break, despite committing seven turnovers, shooting 42.3 percent from the field and making just 7 of 12 free throws.
The Zags, led by Dranginis and Melson, held San Diego leading scorer Duda Sanadze scoreless in the first half. He had 11 points in the second half but his team trailed by 19 when he connected on his first field goal.
“That’s the goal every game, cut the head off the snake,” Melson said. “Try to shut down the best player as best as we can.”
San Diego (8-20, 3-14) made just 33 percent of its shots. The Toreros hit four of their nine 3-pointers in the last four minutes.