No one associated with the Gonzaga University men’s basketball program expected the Bulldogs’ winning streak over Washington to last forever.
The way it went down at Bank of America Arena on Sunday evening, however, proved to be downright painful.
Plagued by early foul problems on the front line and a back injury to starting point guard Derek Raivio, sixth-ranked GU somehow managed to come up with the kind of stirring second-half comeback it desperately needed. But a couple of late-game turnovers and the clutch shooting of UW’s Justin Dentmon was simply too much for the banged-up Zags to overcome as the 18th-ranked and unbeaten Huskies snapped a seven-game losing streak to GU with a hard-earned and wildly entertaining 99-95 win.
“That was about as high a level basketball game as you can get,” a relieved Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said after watching his Huskies pick up their seventh win of the season and run their home-court winning streak to 29, the longest in the nation. “I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few echoed those sentiments about his Bulldogs (4-2), who played nearly three-quarters of the game without Raivio, a 6-3 junior and two-year starter at the point, and got only a combined 42 minutes out of front-line starters J.P. Batista and Sean Mallon.
“Washington hit a lot of tough shots,” he said. “We had to go with kind of a hodge-podge lineup there, and I thought we held up well. But they made a few more big plays down the stretch.”
And the Huskies needed every one of them to offset another remarkable performance by GU’s Adam Morrison, who finished with a game-high 43 points that matched his career high.
Romar called Morrison’s effort, which included 18-for-29 shooting from the field, “phenomenal.”
“No question, that was the best performance of anyone when I’ve been sitting on the bench as either an assistant or a head coach,” Romar added.
The Huskies came up with a few weapons of their own, however, finishing with five players in double figures. Jamaal Williams led UW with 22 points, followed by Dentmon with 17 and Bobby Jones with 15.
“Justin Dentmon stepped in up big time there in the second half,” Romar said of his freshman guard, who scored nine points in the last seven minutes to almost single-handedly turn back the Zags.
Despite playing almost three-quarters of the game without Raivio and dealing with what Few called “horrific” foul problems on the front line, GU mounted a stirring second-half comeback to take a 93-92 lead with 90 seconds left in the game. But a bucket by Williams and a three-point play by Dentmon put the Huskies ahead for good.
The Bulldogs, trailing 97-95, had a chance to regain the lead when Morrison launched a tough 3-pointer from the right wing, but the shot bounced off the rim and Mallon, who played only 15 minutes, blew the putback with just over 5 seconds left.
Jones then closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws.
Few said he wasn’t necessarily looking for a 3 from Morrison on his final shot.
“We were just looking for an isolation over there,” Few explained. “We took too tough a shot. We should have been patient out there, but Adam makes tough shots all the time.
“So, if the ball is in his hands, that’s where we want it to be.”
With Batista and Mallon watching from the bench with four fouls and Raivio also turned spectator because of a bruised back, the Bulldogs mounted the unlikeliest of second-half comeback against a UW team than had been the aggressor all night long.
Trailing 65-54 with 14:08 left in the game, the Zags used the uncanny scoring ability of Morrison and the seemingly boundless energy of sophomore forward David Pendergraft and freshman guard Larry Gurganioius to fashion a 16-4 run that gave GU a 70-69 lead – its first of the game – with just over 11 minutes remaining.
And the two teams played close the rest of the way, much to the delight of a sellout crowd of 10,000.
Afterward, Few passed on even guessing how long Raivio, who took a nasty tumble on a drive to the basket midway through the first half, might be out. But he made it clear that his departure didn’t help the Zags’ chances against UW.
“That takes away one of the best point guards in the country, and a guy who has run our offense for the past two seasons,” Few said of Raivio, who was fouled on the drive, made both free throws and then limped out of the game with 9:34 left in the first half and never returned.
Raivio’s back was X-rayed at halftime, and the X-rays were negative.
“But he just couldn’t play,” Few added. “His lower body was tightening up and, basically, he couldn’t push off. He tried to warm up in the second half, but he just couldn’t go.”
GU returns to Seattle on Saturday at 1 p.m. to face Oklahoma State at KeyArena.
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