PORTLAND – The bounce-back game required a serious in-game bounce back.
The Zags had no chance of rivaling Friday’s Gonzaga-Florida double-overtime dandy, so they did the next best thing. They came fairly close, at least for a long portion of Sunday’s breakfast special against Texas.
It was all going smoothly until the Zags made an abrupt U-turn and a 16-point lead melted away against full-court pressure in the last six minutes of regulation.
Momentum was entirely on the Longhorns’ sideline. The Zags looked rattled, jittery and tentative.
And then they didn’t, stringing together eight unanswered points in overtime to claim an oddly satisfying 76-71 win at the Moda Center and take third place in the PK80 Motion Bracket.
“We did a really poor job of being strong with ball, a really poor job with our decisions,” coach Mark Few said of GU’s late turnover binge. “But 44 of those minutes were pretty good. I’m going to choose to focus on that. It’s Nov. 26, and we’ll clean up some things on the press-break, but by and large it’s been a great three days for us.”
The 17th-ranked Zags (5-1) made it much harder than it needed to be, but they found their way after losing their way.
Thanks to Rui Hachimura’s 20-point lift off the bench and Josh Perkins’ 3-point shooting, Gonzaga led by 14 at half and by 21 early in the second half. It was 68-52 when they lost their grip on the steering wheel.
Barely a minute later, Texas was within seven. Perkins coughed the ball up twice in the backcourt in a matter of seconds and the Longhorns capitalized on both.
The lead continued to shrivel but Killian Tillie and Silas Melson hit 3-pointers, the latter from 24 feet erasing a disjointed possession. The margin was five after Tillie, who shook off an earlier hard fall on his hip and elbow, made a free throw with 18.1 seconds left.
After Mohamed Bamba’s putback, Perkins threw a long pass against the press that hit Texas’ Dylan Osetkowski in stride. He fed Andrew Jones for a game-tying 3 in the closing seconds that left the majority of the pro-Zags crowd in stunned silence.
“Lot of credit to my teammates to forget that play and put it behind us,” Perkins said. “I know I messed up at the end but hats off to those guys.”
Bamba’s dunk gave Texas the lead for the first time since midway through the first half.
Tillie fed Johnathan Williams for a dunk while he was being hacked. His free-throw gave GU a one-point advantage. Freshman Corey Kispert was uncontested for a weak-side putback and Silas Melson sealed it with a steal and layup with 7.5 seconds remaining.
“I mean 99 percent of teams out there would have caved in in the overtime,” Few said. “It’s a great sign for how we competed and came back and won the next five minutes.”
Both teams needed short memories after Friday’s disappointment. Gonzaga had numerous chances in a 111-105 loss to No. 7 Florida. Meanwhile, Texas (4-2) handled No. 1 Duke for 32 minutes but wilted as the Blue Devils rallied for an 85-78 win. So it was somewhat understandable when the Zags sleepwalked through the opening stretch with careless turnovers and inattentive defense.
Melson fell down driving into the lane and was called for traveling. Osetkowski lost his dribble on a drive and the ball floated into the second row.
Gonzaga’s zone defense has been effective of late, but it got a quick hook after yielding an uncontested floater to Andrew Coleman.
The Zags dominated the next 25 minutes, then survived their late pratfall.
“Too crazy for my heart,” Tillie said. “They took the ball out of our hands. We have to stay strong but we didn’t.
“They just made a shot to tie us (late in regulation). It felt like it was harder for us to go back into the game and play overtime. I’m proud of our guys that we did it.”
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