SAN FRANCISCO – For long stretches of the first half, Gonzaga couldn’t stop turning the ball over. For long stretches of the second half, the Bulldogs couldn’t defend the 3-point shot.
As a result, the 19th-ranked Bulldogs were nursing a one-point lead with 10 minutes left against upset-minded San Francisco. But Gonzaga finally put together an impressive stretch, using a 16-4 spurt to subdue the Dons 78-73 at War Memorial Gym on Saturday night.
Gonzaga (19-5, 10-0) hiked its West Coast Conference lead to three games over Portland, which lost to Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif.
San Francisco (9-17, 1-10), which lost by 34 points to Gonzaga in Spokane last month, dropped its fourth straight and 10th in its last 11, but the Dons made Gonzaga work to maintain its unbeaten WCC record.
The Zags led 57-51 after Matt Bouldin’s pull-up jumper, but San Francisco responded with Dior Lowhorn’s two free throws and Blake Wallace’s 3-pointer.
Bouldin started GU’s decisive run with a putback of Steven Gray’s missed dunk and Austin Daye’s driving layup.
Wallace, whose only other double-figures game in conference came in Spokane last month, drained another 3 – making him 4 of 4 from long distance at that point – to narrow GU’s lead to 61-59 with 8:26 left.
The Bulldogs scored the next nine points. Daye hit a 3-pointer and reserve guard Demetri Goodson made 1 of 2 free throws. Jeremy Pargo connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key and then drove for a short jump shot to put GU up by 11.
Daye’s three-point play hiked Gonzaga’s lead to 13 with 3:44 remaining, but the Bulldogs didn’t make it easy on themselves. Three turnovers in the last three minutes kept the door open for the Dons, who hit three more 3s, the last trimming Gonzaga’s lead to 77-73 with 4.6 seconds left.
Daye, who scored Gonzaga’s last eight points, made 1 of 2 free throws and USF misfired on a 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded.
Daye had team highs with 17 points and nine rebounds. Goodson scored 12 of his career high 13 points in the first half. Pargo added 12 points, Bouldin 11 and Josh Heytvelt 10 for the Zags, who shot 60 percent from the field.
GU committed turnovers on its first four possessions and had 12 turnovers for the half. The Bulldogs shot 65.4 percent from the field and used a 19-10 edge in rebounding to build a 41-37 lead at the break. Eighteen of USF’s points came off GU turnovers.
Lowhorn had 15 of his 23 points in the first half. Wallace made 5 of 6 3-pointers and finished with 19 points. The Dons, minus four suspended players for the second straight game, made 9 of 12 on 3s in the second half.
Pepperdine 57, San Diego 52: Keion Bell scored 18 points and Ryan Holmes added 17 as Pepperdine snapped a nine-game losing streak by defeating San Diego at Malibu, Calif.
The Waves, picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference, won their third straight game improving to 8-18 overall and 5-5 in league play.
Rob Jones had 13 points and seven rebounds and Danny Brown scored 11 points for San Diego (13-13, 5-6), which has lost six of its last seven games.
The Toreros pulled as close as 54-52 when Rob Jones made a 3-pointer with 34 seconds remaining.
Saint Mary’s 77, Portland 65: Freshman Mickey McConnell scored 20 points to lead struggling Saint Mary’s to a critical 77-65 victory over Portland at Moraga, Calif.
Once ranked No. 18, the Gaels had lost four of their previous five games since star point guard Patrick Mills broke his hand. One of the players called on to replace Mills, McConnell hit two 3-pointers in the second-half run that put away what had been a tight game. He was perfect in four shots from beyond the arc. He also made all six of his free throws.
Saint Mary’s (20-5, 7-4 West Coast) needed the victory to keep alive realistic hopes at finishing with one of the top two spots in the WCC and earning a bye in next month’s conference tournament.
Portland (16-9, 7-3) still holds an edge for the conference’s No. 2 spot.
Nik Raivo led Portland with 16 points. T.J. Campbell scored 15 and Robin Smuelders had 13 for the Pilots.
Omar Samhan scored 17 and Diamon Simpson had 17 and nine rebounds for the Gaels.
Saint Mary’s has won 20 games in back-to-back seasons for the second time in school history.
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