Back in the locker room after Gonzaga’s 90-40 feel-good victory on Senior Night, the five Bulldogs seniors posed for a picture with Andrew Sorenson’s father, Don, manning the camera.
Just another memento on an evening filled with highlights. Sorenson, who went from freshman Kennel Clubber to walk-on to scholarship senior, made his first start and scored a career-high 15 points.
Jeremy Pargo, with his mom and grandmother on hand to see their first game at the McCarthey Athletic Center, chipped in eight points and seven assists. Micah Downs had 11 points and three dunks. Ira Brown finished with seven points and six rebounds. Josh Heytvelt totaled 12 points and eight boards as the 14th-ranked Bulldogs closed the regular season by breezing past South Carolina Upstate in front of 6,000 fans Tuesday.
Whether you’re reading this at 6:30 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon, chances are pretty good there’s still a smile plastered on Sorenson’s face.
“Oh man, I said I would never forget this night,” Sorenson said. “My goodness. My kids are going to get sick of hearing this story.”
Sorenson, who had scored 32 points in 110 minutes the last three seasons, hit a couple of free throws near the end of the first half, then opened the second half with a 3-pointer. He made a couple of more 3s, including one just seconds before exiting with 1:39 left to a standing ovation and chants of “SOR-EN-SON.”
“He was the one who electrified everything,” Downs said. “He comes in and gets on the board right away, gets a steal, comes out firing. Just the way he plays in practice every day.”
Head coach Mark Few gave each senior a final curtain call in the closing minutes. Heytvelt departed first, followed by Pargo, Downs, Brown and Sorenson.
“It was an exciting time for each and every one of us,” said Pargo, who signed his shoes and tossed them into the crowd during a postgame ceremony that featured brief speeches by the five seniors.
“Just to get to start my last home game, especially with the other seniors, was a memorable moment,” Brown said.
Heytvelt choked up when he addressed the crowd.
“I’ve been thinking about what I was going to say all season and I thought I had it down pretty well and I wasn’t going to do that,” he said. “For everything I went through, it was just fine that it choked me up a little bit.”
On the court, the Zags (24-5) dashed in front with the five seniors in the starting lineup. It was 8-0 before the Spartans’ Bobby Davis made a jumper with 16:18 left.
Gonzaga’s lead swelled to 43-16 at half as USC Upstate committed 15 turnovers. GU converted those miscues into a 26-0 edge in points off turnovers.
The five seniors also started the second half and the lead quickly grew to 32.
“The whole atmosphere, the building, the excitement everyone was playing with, it was awesome,” Downs said.
The Bulldogs finished with 18 steals, 19 assists and just four turnovers.
Ten Bulldogs scored and the team shot 47.3 percent from the field. Junior Matt Bouldin had a team-high 16 points and five steals.
Davis led the Spartans (9-21) with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Gonzaga enters the WCC tournament this weekend in Las Vegas as the top seed. The Zags have a bye into the semifinals and won’t know their opponent until Saturday night.
“It ended up being a perfect ending at home for the seniors,” Few said. “I don’t think I could have scripted it any better.”
Gonzaga 90, USC Upstate 40
Percentages: FG .298, FT .533. 3-Point Goals: 4-13, .308 (Chavis 2-4, Posey 1-2, Cook 1-3, Boros 0-1, Davis 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 6 (Schneiders 4). Turnovers: 26 (Chavis 5). Steals: 2 (Uzochukwu, Posey). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .531, FT .786. 3-Point Goals: 9-27, .333 (Sorenson 3-9, Pargo 2-3, Bouldin 2-3, Gray 1-3, Downs 1-7, Daye 0-1, Pontarolo-Maag 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Gray 2). Turnovers: 4 (Heytvelt 2). Steals: 18 (Bouldin 5). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Gonzaga 47, USC Upstate 24. A–6000.
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