SEATTLE – Connecticut guard A.J. Price wasn’t exactly open. He was trying to draw a foul. When that didn’t happen, he made a tough, off-balance 3-pointer over Gonzaga’s Jeremy Pargo.
Price’s clutch shot sent the game into overtime, where the Huskies completed their comeback while the Bulldogs were running short of bodies. No. 2 Connecticut pulled away for an 88-83 victory in the sixth annual Battle in Seattle on Saturday, snatching a win that the eighth-ranked Bulldogs appeared to have in their grasp.
Gonzaga (8-2) was undone for the second time in three games by costly late turnovers and a rebound that was tracked down by Connecticut’s Jerome Dyson, which led to Price’s dagger with 9 seconds left.
“It was a heavyweight fight,” said senior guard Micah Downs, who, along with Matt Bouldin, fouled out in the first 80 seconds of overtime. “We defended it the best we could. It was over a hand, a double-clutch shot. He hit it.
“We had the game. We just have to move on and get ready for the rest of our schedule.”
Price and fellow guard Dyson combined for 45 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. They also shot 20 of Connecticut’s 38 free throws. Gonzaga was 14 of 20 at the foul line.
“I think I got hit, but you play on that late in the game,” Price said. “I was trying to draw the foul a little bit, but I was trying to make the shot more than anything. It’s probably the biggest shot I’ve hit at this level. I was glad to give my team a second chance to go into overtime and pull this game out.”
That task was made easier when Austin Daye, who made a couple of key baskets to keep Gonzaga in front, fouled out with 33.1 seconds left in regulation, and Downs and Bouldin soon followed in overtime, leaving Gonzaga without three of its top four scorers.
Gonzaga trailed 33-23 with 5 minutes left in the first half, but Steven Gray kept the Zags in it with 13 first-half points. Known as a spot-up shooter, Gray drove and finished with regularity and helped the Bulldogs open up a 57-46 lead with 11 minutes remaining.
Slowly, that lead melted away, but the Bulldogs stayed in front 67-62 after a Daye fadeaway and 72-68 after his bank shot settled into the net with 2:07 remaining.
Leading 72-70, Daye forced a turnover on a Huskies inbounds pass, but Gonzaga gave it back when Pargo tried an ill-advised three-quarters court pass against the press. That pass was intercepted by Gavin Edwards, an unexpected contributor with 14 points and 12 rebounds in relief of 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet, who was in foul trouble and essentially a non-factor for the second straight year against Gonzaga.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country, if not the best, and we had them beat for 40 minutes of that game except the last 9 seconds,” said Pargo, who battled leg cramps most of the second half. “We had every opportunity to win that game. Mistakes killed us, killed me.”
Price made 1 of 2 free throws, but Bouldin countered with a pair of foul shots with 24.7 seconds left to give Gonzaga a three-point edge. Connecticut had two cracks at the tying 3, with Price cashing in on the second one.
“We needed one rebound there and one stop,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We got the stop, we just didn’t get the rebound. And Price hit an incredible shot.”
Gray led Gonzaga with 23 points and seven rebounds. Pargo finished with 16 points, Josh Heytvelt 15 and Daye 13. Gonzaga, which has dropped three straight Battle in Seattle games, was outrebounded 41-31, including 15-8 on the offensive glass.
Gonzaga made 50 percent of its shots, but just 3 of 10 in overtime. Dyson had six points in the extra session, including a 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining that put the Huskies on top 84-77.
“Our guys played their tails off,” Few said. “We used everybody we possibly had in the whole gym and we had the craziest lineups. That’s what they can do to you. They can really physically take it out of you and put a lot of foul pressure on you.”
The Bulldogs entertain Portland State on Tuesday.
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