Gonzaga overcame a steady dose of adversity – foul trouble, Steven Gray’s injury, a horn blowing just as Robert Sacre was attempting a free throw in the closing seconds – and pulled out a 68-64 victory over No. 9 Baylor on Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Gray left the game with 5 minutes left in the first half with back spasms. He appeared to aggravate his back while picking up the ball to hand it to an official. He didn’t play in the second half. Elias Harris fouled out with 6:22 left after scoring just eight points. Baylor lived at the free-throw line, making 26 of 33 – 19 of those attempts coming in a grinding, foul-filled second half.
And Gonzaga still found a way to win. The Bulldogs got huge contributions from numerous players, including Marquise Carter, Sam Dower and Kelly Olynyk off the bench, to knock off a ranked opponent for the first time in five tries this season. GU (6-5) had lost nine straight to ranked foes.
“You can play this schedule and compete with this schedule, which we have for long stretches of time, but you need to get rewarded somehow,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Our guys have held up. Just to stay positive and to be able to win at the end of a streak like this shows their character.”
Junior center Robert Sacre was a force inside, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds. Carter contributed 13 points, including 5 of 6 free throws in the last 44 seconds to hold off the Bears (7-1), who were playing their first game away from the Ferrell Center in Waco.
“We’ve been through so many tough games, it was kind of a familiar feeling and we’re used to dealing with tough situations,” Sacre said. “Eventually it had to come our way.”
Dower added 10 points and Olynyk connected on a clutch 3-pointer that put Gonzaga in front to stay, 61-59, with 1:45 remaining.
“I’m not sure going into this game we could find our way from the hotel to the bus without Steven Gray,” Few said. “For us to navigate through (most of the game) against a ranked team without him, our guys deserve a lot of credit.”
Demetri Goodson had an unusual stat line: six points, seven turnovers, three steals, two assists and two rebounds. He made two free throws with 1:35 left to bump Gonzaga’s lead to 63-59.
Baylor made just 36.7 percent of their field-goal attempts. Standout guard LaceDarius Dunn, who had seven consecutive 20-point games dating back to last season, scored 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Dunn made a 3-pointer over Sacre’s outstretched hand on Baylor’s first possession. Dunn opened the second half with another 3 that gave Baylor a 30-29 lead.
That was it for Baylor’s success beyond the 3-point line. The Bears finished 2 of 12 on 3s. Gonzaga led 29-27 at half, and quickly answered after Dunn’s 3-pointer 30 seconds into the second half. Mathis Mönninghoff made a 3-pointer and Harris scored on a nice feed from Goodson to put GU in front 34-30.
Carter, whose previous season-high was seven points, made a pair of 3s to put Gonzaga on top 52-49. Baylor reclaimed the lead on a four-point play. Perry Jones made a jumper while Quincy Acy was fouled underneath jostling for rebound position with Manny Arop. Acy made both free throws and Baylor led 59-58.
Olynyk responded at the other end with a 3-pointer.
“That was a great feeling when it went in,” Sacre said. “It just took a little weight off the shoulders and we knew this game was ours.”
Sacre was just about to release a free throw with 25.8 seconds remaining when the horn blew. Seconds later, he missed his free throw and Baylor closed within three on Acy’s tip-in. Carter then made three free throws to secure the win.
“I think they wanted it more,” Dunn said. “They came out with a chip on their shoulder, and they came out and worked harder.”
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