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Zags focused on turning in complete game

Gonzaga guard Eric McClellan reacts to being called for a foul during the second half on Thursday against Santa Clara. McClellan says fans will see a better defensive effort against San Francisco on Saturday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Eric McClellan reacts to being called for a foul during the second half on Thursday against Santa Clara. McClellan says fans will see a better defensive effort against San Francisco on Saturday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga continues its season-long battle with turnovers and pursuit of the elusive complete game.

The two are often related, as was the case Thursday when Gonzaga won fairly comfortably, 84-67 over Santa Clara, but committed 16 turnovers that helped the Broncos generate roughly one-third of their points.

There was a long list of good, including an outstanding first half, Kyle Wiltjer’s 35 points, Domantas Sabonis’ 17 rebounds, Bryan Alberts’ trio of second-half 3-pointers and the team’s 13-of-26 effort beyond the arc.

And a long list of not-so-good heading into Saturday’s 5 p.m. matchup with San Francisco.

“Based on that second half, we need to clean up a lot,” coach Mark Few said. “USF is a really good offensive team. We need to play defense like we did in the first half (against Santa Clara) and we’ll have take way better care of the ball.

“We have to quit turning the ball over like that, and it just comes across the board. Bigs turn it over, smalls turn it over, so it’s hard to predict where it’s going to come from.”

Gonzaga has had double-digit turnovers in seven of its last eight games. In those eight games, GU has had more turnovers than opponents six times and an equal number twice.

The Zags escaped a 10-point deficit with 3:05 remaining en route to a 102-94 overtime victory over San Francisco in early January. Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer combined for 65 points. Guards Josh Perkins, Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made timely contributions.

USF guards Devin Watson (33), Ronnie Boyce (20) and Uche Ofoegbu (18) set or matched career highs. The Dons, who led by as many as 16, made 14 3s.

“That can’t happen. We’re too good defensively to have guys get career highs, especially three of them,” senior guard Eric McClellan said. “We’ve learned from it, watched a ton of film, went to work on it at practice. I think you’ll see a different Zags (team) on Saturday.”

USF (11-9, 5-5 WCC) thumped Portland 87-76 Thursday. Six Dons reached double digits, led by Boyce’s 19 points.

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