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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga allowed Northwestern to hang around by misfiring on free-throw attempts

Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss  is fouled by Northwestern guard Sanjay Lumpkin  during the first half Saturday  in Salt Lake City. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

SALT LAKE CITY – Gonzaga struggled at the free-throw line on Saturday when the Zags topped Northwestern 79-73 in the NCAA Tournament round of 32.

The Zags finished with 23 makes out of 36 attempts at the line, one of their lowest free-throw percentages (63.9) this season.

The Zags were given 28 opportunities for a shot at the line in the second half and they missed several of them – nine to be exact – before draining 10 in the final 5 minutes. Jordan Mathews said the missed shots on GU’s end, particularly in the beginning of the second half, allowed the Wildcats to continue their rally behind a barrage of 3-pointers.

“You can’t trade three for one and three for two,” Mathews said. “You have to get two every time down there and get a stop, because if they stop the clock and you’re missing free throws, you’re giving them free points. So you got to knock them down.”

Free-throw percentage proved be pivotal in a number of GU’s wins this season and in their lone loss against BYU. In that game, the Zags shot 55.2 percent (16 of 29) before falling to the Cougars 79-71.

Gonzaga’s lowest shooting percentage at the line this season came against Iowa State when the Zags hit only 6 of 12 of their shots. The Zags barely pulled out a 73-71 win over the Cyclones.

“There’s games won and there’s games lost at the free throw line and we don’t want to be the ones to lose the games at the free throw line,” GU guard Silas Melson said. “That’s definitely something we’re going to work on.”

Nigel Williams-Goss led the Zags on free throws on Saturday with 7-of-8 shooting. Zach Collins was 6 for 8 at the line. Johnathan Williams missed all four of his attempts.