MORAGA, Calif. – There was nothing easy about it, even with injured Saint Mary’s standout point guard Patty Mills on the bench in a suit and tie.
Gonzaga finally got some separation with a late 7-0 spurt, only to see the Gaels roar back with a couple of late 3-pointers in a frantic final minute. The Bulldogs couldn’t seal it up at the line, making just 3 of 8 free throws in the last 43.2 seconds.
But the Gaels came up empty on two late possessions, once with a costly turnover and the other when Carlin Hughes’ desperation 3-pointer from about 40 feet was off target just before the buzzer sounded.
Only then did Gonzaga escape with a wild 72-70 West Coast Conference men’s basketball win over the scrappy Gaels in front of a 3,500 Thursday at McKeon Pavilion.
The victory allowed the 19th-ranked Bulldogs (18-5, 9-0 WCC) to maintain a two-game lead over Portland (16-8, 7-2), which defeated San Francisco. The Gaels (19-5, 6-4) have dropped four of five since losing Mills to a broken hand late in the first half of the first meeting with Gonzaga on Jan. 29.
Gonzaga broke from the 11th and final tie at 60 on Austin Daye’s dunk, Josh Heytvelt’s two free throws and Matt Bouldin’s 3-pointer from the right wing. Perhaps more important, Gonzaga ratcheted up its defense, with Steven Gray and Bouldin causing turnovers.
The Gaels also missed three straight 3-point attempts.
But the Gaels didn’t go quietly. Hughes hit a 3-pointer to narrow GU’s lead to 70-67 with 31.4 seconds left. After Heytvelt made 1 of 2 free throws, Hughes tried to draw a foul on Heytvelt. When that didn’t work, Hughes banked in an off-balance 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds remaining to cut GU’s lead to 71-70.
Bouldin missed two free throws, but the Gaels gave the ball back when Hughes couldn’t handle an inbounds pass in front of the Saint Mary’s bench.
Jeremy Pargo made 1 of 2 free throws with 4.1 seconds left and Hughes running 3-point attempt was too hard as time expired.
Gonzaga trailed by as many as nine early, but the Bulldogs rallied to pull even at 36 in a foul-plagued first half.
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