SAN FRANCISCO – Gonzaga coach Mark Few couldn’t recall a crazier game. Neither could senior guard Eric McClellan.
The Zags rallied late in regulation and dominated the extra session to claim a wild 102-94 victory Saturday in front of a packed house – roughly one-third of which were Gonzaga fans – at War Memorial Gym. Gonzaga (12-3, 4-0 WCC) extended its winning streak to six. The Dons (8-6, 2-2) had won five of their previous six and were well positioned to upset the Zags in the closing minutes.
“Man, all I can say is that was the craziest game I’ve been part of in my four years of playing college basketball,” said McClellan, who scored 14 points, eight in overtime. “We stuck with it and made huge plays at the end.”
Gonzaga, down 10 with 3:05 left in regulation, stormed back with 13 straight points, but San Francisco guard Tim Derksen hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6 seconds left to tie it at 82 and force overtime.
GU’s Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer combined for nine points in overtime. Sabonis hit 5 of 6 free throws before fouling out. Wiltjer buried a 3-pointer to boost Gonzaga’s lead to 89-85. The Zags made their free throws to close it out.
“That might have been the craziest one I’ve been part of,” Few said. “It was looking pretty bleak there … but we kept talking to them that there were a lot of possessions left and just get back to what we do. They hit some big shots and felt the momentum turning.”
Sabonis and Wiltjer weren’t at full strength. Sabonis twisted his ankle in Thursday’s win over Santa Clara, but he poured in 35 points, one shy of his career high, and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Wiltjer, who hurt his foot Thursday, delivered 30 points on 13-of-22 shooting and 11 rebounds.
“It feels fine now, I can’t even tell,” Wiltjer said, “but it’s good we don’t play until next Saturday (against Portland).”
It didn’t look like the Zags had a comeback in them after trailing by double figures most of the second half.
“We just stuck with it, even though we looked like we were in the gutter there,” Wiltjer said. “Credit to the guys for not giving up.”
Prior to Gonzaga’s late rally, San Francisco’s guards put on a shooting clinic. Devin Watson finished with a career-high 33 points and Ronnie Boyce equaled his career best with 20 points. They combined to hit 10 3-pointers. Guard Uche Ofoegbu added a career-high 18 points.
Gonzaga trailed from the 8-minute mark of the first half. The Dons operate with four guards and have little or no post-up presence. San Francisco worked on the perimeter (14 of 31 3-pointers) and on the bounce, with Watson, Ofoegbu and Boyce handling most of the dribble penetration.
The Zags were essentially just the opposite, piling up paint points with little production from outside (5 of 19 on 3s.), but guards Perkins (15 points), McClellan (14) and Kyle Dranginis (eight points, eight boards) helped spark Gonzaga’s comeback.
“The last 8 or 9 minutes our DER (defensive efficiency rating) was back down to 0.7 (points per possession). It was at about 2.0, we were just getting smoked,” Few said. “Watson was magical. This gym is such a shooter’s gym. We tried every kind of zone, man. We finally just settled in and guarded them.”
USF stretched its lead to 47-36 with 3-pointers, two by Boyce and one by Ofoegbu, on its first three possessions of the second half. Boyce, 1 of 7 from the field in the first half, hit three 3s in the first 3:40 of the second half.
The Dons kept right on hitting shots – 10 of 15 – to lead by as many as 16. Watson’s conventional three-point play put the Dons up 65-52 with 11:46 left.
San Francisco led 79-69 after a pair of Ofoegbu free throws, but the Zags pulled even with 10 rapid-fire points in 95 seconds.
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