If you stayed with the KHQ broadcast of Gonzaga’s 69-59 win over the University of San Diego until after it was over, you heard Richard Fox sum up the less than 2 hours of basketball perfectly.
“(A) hard-fought, excellent game defensively,” Fox said following the Zags’ 20th win of the season. “GU just had one more spurt, one more run on their offensive side of the ball (and) got the win.”
And, quite possibly, got the last break in a game in which every one of them was needed.
What they saw …
Everyone, including Fox and his friends, Greg Heister on the play-by-play and Dan Dickau as the other analyst, can agree Thursday night’s West Coast Conference game, before the usual 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, was physical.
It was also filled with lots of trash talk, much of which you could hear over the crowd, and again about half as many whistles as needed.
Though there was one whistle at the end the announcing crew disagreed with. Not that Deron White made the call, but how he defined it.
With 1 minute, 12 seconds left and Gonzaga nursing a 66-59 lead provided by Josh Perkins’ best play of the night, a three-point play at the rim, Silas Melson reached in and fouled San Diego’s Olin Carter III beyond the 3-point line.
Carter continued with his motion after he felt contact and it looked as if White was going to give him three free throws. He didn’t, saying the foul, only the Zags’ fourth of the half, occurred on the floor.
Fox and Dickau disagreed. They felt, rightfully so as replays showed, it should have resulted in three free throws.
The Toreros (15-8, 6-5 in West Coast Conference play) missed their ensuing 3-pointer, Gonzaga (20-4, 10-1) rebounded and Zach Norvell Jr. nailed a 3-pointer to ice the win.
Being as Carter is a 76 percent free-throw shooter, the decision seemed pretty important.
It probably felt that way to San Diego coach Lamont Smith, whom Heister had noticed, just a couple of minutes before, was on the floor, upset with the officiating crew of White, Mike Scyphers and Tom O’Neill, quite possibly the most experienced crew the Kennel has hosted this season.
“He hasn’t been happy,” Heister said of Smith, who may have looked at the stat sheet and saw that GU had just 10 fouls all game.
He probably wasn’t the only one who noticed, but for different reasons.
Gonzaga dominated the first half, though mainly through its prowess on the offensive glass, and led by nine.
“The initial defense for San Diego has been excellent,” Fox said at halftime, “but they have given up eight offensive rebounds. As a result, Gonzaga has 14 second-chance points. That’s been the difference in the game.”
A difference that disappeared in a little more than a minute.
The Toreros scored the first eight points after intermission, cut the Zag lead to one, went on to lead 40-38 after a 3-pointer by Tyler Williams, and made it a game, until Gonzaga scored eight of the final 10 points to pull away.
Oh, and the final tally of second-chance points? That would be GU 24, USD 7.
What we saw …
For a while in the second half, senior guard Melson was the only Bulldog holding the Toreros at bay. He scored seven consecutive points midway through the half as Gonzaga rebuilt its nine-point lead.
“That’s what you want to see from one of your backcourt senior leaders,” Dickau said. “The willingness to step up and take, and make, big shots when it’s needed.”
It was, mainly because both teams were defending as their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings in the conference stats indicated they would.
In fact, the Zags, second in those rankings and reminded of it all week, seemed to take it personally. They were the better defenders this night, holding San Diego to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor, and less than that from beyond the arc.
“This is old school,” Fox said. “Just a defensive grind.”
The Toreros, who not only are physical on the defensive end, but also moved on just about every on- or off-ball screen, were called for 18 fouls, a number that could have been double. More than once a Gonzaga player had to be helped off the floor after a screen or a Torero was given the same aid after a Zags attack on the offensive glass.
Every possession was a battle.
As Fox noted early on, “Nothing is coming easily for GU.”
He could have been talking about both teams. And for everyone else involved.