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Gonzaga drops fourth straight

Todd Merchant Special to The Spokesman Review

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The West Coast Conference slate couldn’t get here soon enough for Gonzaga.

After logging more than 15,800 miles since late November, the Bulldogs are finally headed home, with their tails between their legs.

Virginia saw to that Wednesday night as the Cavaliers walked all over Gonzaga, 108-87, in its worst loss in the Mark Few era.

“That’s about as bad as we’ve been beaten, certainly in the eight years that I’ve been head coach,” said Few, whose team dropped its fourth game in a row. “Virginia’s effort level was far superior, their execution was far superior, their toughness was far superior to anything that we showed in that game.”

The main culprit for Virginia (9-3) was Sean Singletary, who lit up the Bulldogs for a career-high 37 points, including seven 3-pointers. The senior guard’s previous high was a 35-point explosion at Gonzaga (9-6) last season.

“He’s a tough guy,” said Bulldogs sophomore Jeremy Pargo. “I didn’t really get to see a lot of action on him because I was in foul trouble, but he’s a tough kid and he showed that last year. He just came out and balled on us.”

It didn’t seem to matter who the Zags put on Singletary, who knocked down three 3-pointers in the first 2:38 of the game to help Virginia run out to a 9-4 lead.

It didn’t get any better for Gonzaga, which endured a stretch of 6:19 in the middle of the first half in which it failed to sink a field goal.

By the time Matt Bouldin hit a layup with 11:31 left in the opening stanza, the Bulldogs were trailing 24-8 and the rout was on.

“It didn’t look like we were tough enough to go from the tip,” Few said. “Obviously, when they start banging in those 3s and start rolling like that, then you’ve got your hands full.”

While Virginia was shooting the lights out, Gonzaga was not helping itself early in the game as the Bulldogs shot just 26.7 percent (8 of 30) from the field and committed 12 turnovers in the first half.

Some of that rough start could be attributed to fatigue as Gonzaga has been constantly on the go during the last six weeks. This was the Zags’ third trip to the East Coast this season. The loss to the Cavaliers was the most recent in a rough stretch that has included defeats at the hands of Georgia, Duke and Nevada.

Even with their rough early-season slate, the Bulldog players are not willing to make excuses.

“I don’t think fatigue was a factor,” Pargo said. “I think we just need to buckle down and play smarter and tougher in situations like this.”

Gonzaga came out stronger in the second half as it shot 51.4 percent from the field in the final stanza to finish the game shooting 40.0 percent (26 of 65).

After a rough start, senior guard Derek Raivio exploded in the final 20 minutes, knocking down five 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 26 points.

“In the second half a couple of guys showed some character,” said Raivio, who moved past Jack Curran and Dan Dickau into 21st place on Gonzaga’s all-time scoring list. “We could have put our tails behind our legs, but we went out there and took the game from that point. We showed a lot more character in that second half.”

Joining Raivio in double figures were Sean Mallon (16), Pargo (13) and Abdullahi Kuso (12).

Gonzaga trailed 60-26 at halftime in its second-worst output after the game against Duke, in which they led the Blue Devils 21-20 at the break.

Gonzaga finally heads home to face Loyola Marymount on Saturday in a WCC opener.

“It’s always nice to play at home, but we’re going back with some regrets, that’s for sure,” Mallon said. “We put ourselves in the position where we have to win the league championship if we want to advance to the postseason. So I hope everyone realizes exactly what it means.”

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