Doug Sherman had it exactly right.
“Can this game get any better?” the ESPN2 play-by-play announcer asked with 1.8 seconds left in the first overtime of Gonzaga’s 111-105 loss to Florida on Friday night in the semifinals of the PK80 in Portland at the Moda Center.
It was tough to answer with a negative.
What they saw …
This was a game of runs, of punches and counterpunches.
Each team had its chance, each team wasted opportunities. Sherman and his analyst, Dan Dakich, were impressed. Through regulation. Through overtime and through the second overtime.
Once, when the pro-Gonzaga crowd started chanting “Go – GU,” Sherman asked another rhetorical question.
“Is this March in Spokane?” he asked his partner.
“I know this, this is as high level (a game) as you can find,” Dakich answered.
And it was certainly that way for Johnathan Williams, who had a career-high – by a lot – 39 points while grabbing 12 rebounds.
Dakich was impressed, as he was in the Zags’ tournament opener Thanksgiving night.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen a quicker first step all year than Johnathan Williams,” Dakich said, explaining that’s usually reserved for a discussion about guards but Williams, at 6-foot-9, deserved it. He also deserved to be spoken about as one of the nation’s best players.
Dakich also spread the love to Killian Tillie, who had 17 points before fouling out.
“What more do you want Tillie to do?” Dakich asked after a Tillie 3-pointer in the first half.
There is little doubt Dakich is a fan of the Gonzaga program – if not the school’s fans. Or any program’s fans, for that matter. He complained about getting roasted in social media by GU supporters, as well as mentioning Michigan State and others in the same vein. You would think a former college coach would have thicker skin.
But he spent much of the night praising Few and his players, up until Florida pulled away in the second overtime.
What we saw …
The Zags’ first loss can be explained by the numbers – somewhat.
The 17th-ranked Bulldogs (4-1) received just five points from its bench, with four starters – all but Killie – playing more than 40 minutes.
Plus the Gators scored 21 more points from beyond the arc, which more than made up for the dominance of Williams inside.
But there was one number that really stood out, as Florida shot 10 more free throws than the Zags, and made nine. That despite the vocal support of the crowd.
During another chant in the second half, Sherman noticed. He also noticed when Florida’s KeVaughn Allen scored and the chant ended.
“Allen answers,” Sherman said, before pausing and adding, “and quiets the Kennel.”
Williams attacked all night around the rim and shot eight free throws. Surprisingly, since he’s about a 50/50 proposition from there, he made six.
But Jalen Hudson, who scored 35 points for Florida, only attacked occasionally, and he still shot 11 free throws.
Though Gonzaga did get the game’s biggest free-throw attempt – and missed. After Silas Melson had tied the score at 105 with 1.8 seconds left, he had a chance to put the Zags up. He couldn’t, missing short on the free-throw attempt.
Finally, the Gators put together one final run and moved into the title game against Duke. Gonzaga will face Texas on Sunday morning. After playing the tournament’s best – and longest – contest.
“It was a game for the ages,” Dakich said as the teams shook hands.
He was right.
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