Count coach Mark Few among those who were surprised when Gonzaga didn’t foul intentionally on North Dakota’s last possession with the Zags nursing a three-point lead Saturday.
Few wanted his team to let the clock run down to a certain number and foul before the Fighting Hawks could launch a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
That was the plan, as discussed during a GU timeout prior to Johnathan Williams’ second free-throw attempt with 15.9 seconds left in regulation. Instead, Williams missed the free throw and North Dakota’s Geno Crandall forced overtime with a 3-pointer over Josh Perkins.
“That’s what we do, we’ve done that effectively in the past,” Few said. “Again, we didn’t execute. It was kind of a microcosm of the whole game. We’re kind of in the right spot, but we’re not making the proper play.”
Few did cut his players some slack.
“That’s a hard play, though, too, to not foul a guy in shooting motion,” Few said. “It’s very easy for us to stand here and say whatever. Josh made a heck of a play in the Final Four to foul (in the closing seconds against South Carolina). I think maybe he didn’t feel comfortable enough doing it here.”
The 12th-ranked Zags responded in overtime to pull out an 89-83 victory over North Dakota.
Gonzaga (9-2) hopes to avoid being in a similar situation Monday against another underdog opponent. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), coming off a 72-59 loss to Washington State on Saturday, has dropped five straight.
The Jaguars, first-year members of the Horizon League, are 2-7, one of those wins over Division III Anderson University. They’ve been fairly competitive with their lone 20-plus loss coming to No. 21 Purdue 86-61.
IUPUI’s resume isn’t that much different than North Dakota’s. The Jaguars are No. 311 in RPI. North Dakota climbed 10 spots following Saturday’s loss to No. 253.
Gonzaga’s full attention should be on IUPUI after Saturday’s wake-up call.
“We know we get teams’ best no matter who we play,” Perkins said. “We have to come out and respond better. We took the first couple of punches early but we responded, that’s what matters.
“We have another game Monday. We can’t overlook them like we did (North Dakota).”
Few is looking for an improved effort from Gonzaga’s frontcourt. The Zags won the boards 44-27 against undersized North Dakota, but starters Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie combined for nine of GU’s 17 turnovers.
“We were throwing the ball to them and they weren’t delivering and they weren’t getting good shots and they were fumbling and bumbling the ball,” Few said of the bigs. “You can’t do that when you get that much usage and that many touches. There’s a responsibility that comes with that.”
Head coach Jason Gardner, a former Arizona standout, took over a six-win team and has guided the Jaguars to 10, 13 and 14 wins in his first three seasons.
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