LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – It’s not often a basketball team can win against a high-level opponent by making just seven field goals in the second half.
And scoring just six points in the last 7 minutes. And weathering five potential go-ahead shots by the opposing team in the final 2:35.
That’s what No. 11 Gonzaga did Sunday, a testament to how well it played in the first 23 minutes and how fiercely No. 21 Iowa State fought back in the final 17 minutes.
The Zags lost the momentum but never surrendered the lead and held off the Cyclones 73-71 in the championship game of AdvoCare Invitational at the HP Field House.
“We got a little tentative in the second half and you can’t do that, especially when you’re playing such a good team,” junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss said. “They weren’t going to go away without a fight. Definitely some learning points to take away from it but it’s always good when you can do that with a win.”
Gonzaga (6-0) claimed its third tournament title in Orlando, following up 3-0 runs in the 2008 and 2012 events.
Picking up where they left off in Friday’s win over Florida, the Zags had it all working on the offensive end in the first half. They hit 64.5 percent from the field, including 8 of 12 3-pointers, to take a 49-34 lead.
The Zags made their first six shots, a mixture of inside buckets by Przemek Karnowski and 3-pointers by Williams-Goss (two), Jordan Mathews and Josh Perkins. They kept connecting from the perimeter, mainly because Iowa State’s undersized front line was busy sagging and doubling on GU post players, leaving open space on the perimeter.
Iowa State countered in the second half with a zone, some full-court pressure and tightened up on the perimeter. The Cyclones erased nearly all of GU’s 18-point lead in a four-minute segment. Wing Deonte Burton, who had 21 of his 29 points in the closing half, scored 11 in a 15-0 run that had a pro-Cyclones crowd in full throat.
Williams-Goss hit a 3-pointer – he drained six in the game – to stop ISU’s run. GU found some breathing room on a Perkins steal – courtesy of a kind bounce off an official – and layup.
Zach Collins, who scored Gonzaga’s last six points, buried a 3-pointer to put GU up 70-64 with 5:36 left.
That would be the Zags’ final field goal, but Iowa State wasn’t much better. After pulling within one, the Cyclones misfired on their last five shots.
The Cyclones called timeout to design one last play, but the Zags wisely fouled – they had one to give before putting ISU in the bonus – with 5.6 seconds left. The best ISU could do was an after-the-buzzer 3-pointer by Monte Morris that bounced off the iron.
“They did a great job fouling us,” said Naz Mitrou-Long, who was supposed to take the final 3-pointer. “Had they not done that I think it would have worked perfectly.”
“I should have given them one other action to run,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm lamented.
Gonzaga planned to switch on screens on the Cyclones’ last possession.
“We didn’t want to get beat by a 3,” coach Mark Few said. “We wanted them to use some clock before we fouled. We had our young, mobile group out there that can move their feet pretty darn good. We wanted them to take a tough 2.
“I thought they’d drive something to the basket, but they’d have to do it against a switch and do it against one of our 6-10 or 7-foot guys.”
Williams-Goss, named the tournament MVP, led GU with 18 points. Perkins added 12 points and Karnowski had 11 points, eight boards and five assists.
Freshmen forwards Killian Tillie and Collins were big off the bench again. Collins had nine points and two boards, the last one on the offensive end resulted in a free throw with 14.6 seconds left. Tillie had seven points and five rebounds in 14 minutes.