You knew it would happen at some point. A poor shooting day. Foul trouble. A decently loud home crowd. Second-ranked Gonzaga, winners of a record 35 consecutive regular-season West Coast Conference games, was going to be tested.
It happened Saturday.
The Zags, who trailed most of the game, rallied for an 83-79 victory at USF’s War Memorial Gym.
And there to document it was one-time USF coach Dan Belluomini, who served as analyst on the conference’s broadcast shown in Spokane on KHQ.
Belluomini, joined by Kate Scott doing the play-by-play, caught every major point as the game hung in the balance, from free-throw shooting to foul trouble to each team’s high and low points.
What they saw …
• Belluomini focused early on Gonzaga’s perceived advantage inside; though without the injured Killian Tillie, it wasn’t as pronounced as it might have been.
Still, with Filip Petrusev scoring 23 points and Drew Timme adding a career-high 19, it was substantial.
But Belluomini also pointed out USF’s quickness at guard, an advantage the Dons (16-8, 5-4 in WCC play) used not only to slash to the basket – despite a lack of inside presence they still scored 36 points in the paint – but to also extend their defense, taking away Gonzaga’s ability to score from the outside. The Bulldogs (23-1, 9-0 WCC) made just four 3-point shots (half their usual total) all game. And they missed their only attempt from deep in the first half.
• Corey Kispert didn’t hit any type of shot before halftime, held scoreless by the Dons’ aggressive defense. But the junior stepped up in the second half, hitting 4 of 5 shots and scoring 11 points. None was more important than the 10-foot jumper he hit on the right baseline with 34.4 seconds left, giving Gonzaga an insurmountable lead.
“What a huge second half,” Belluomini understated.
What we saw …
• A really long first half – and game. Mainly because the game was massively over-officiated by the trio of Ron Brockenbrough, Rick O’Neill and Tom Spitznagel – certainly not the WCC’s A-Team.
They whistled 21 first-half fouls, a handful of which seemed to confuse both head coaches and their teams’ fans.
The overabundance of whistles continued in the second half with a couple of Brockenbrough calls – including a rebounding foul on Petrusev – finally earning a verbal rebuke from Gonzaga head coach Mark Few.
Maybe not coincidentally, the Zags went on a 5-0 run, tying the game at 46. The stoppages didn’t go unnoticed.
“He’s one of the few names we haven’t called when it comes to foul trouble,” Scott said after Remu Raitanen picked up his first with 10 minutes left. Just a minute later, when another of the 46 fouls was called, Belluomini weighed in.
“You’ve got everybody in foul trouble in this game. Unbelievable,” he said.
“A lot of whistles,” Scott responded.
For the record, the game took 2 hours, 8 minutes to play.
Gonzaga finished with 21 fouls, USF another 25. For a Zag team that was only really six players deep, the foul trouble helped take away their aggressiveness on both ends.
Of the Zags’ 15 turnovers – USF had just seven – four of them came on offensive fouls.
• Yes, Gonzaga made way too many mistakes. But so did everyone involved with the broadcast.
Scott and Belluomini struggled early on with the Timme/Tillie identification, each calling Timme “Tillie” at least once. But that wasn’t all.
Scott, talking about USF head coach Todd Golden, referenced “his alma mater Santa Clara,” which would have been fine, except Golden attended Saint Mary’s, where he made his first contact with ex-Dons coach Kyle Smith.
Both also misidentified a foul on Timme as being on Joel Ayayi, though they corrected themselves before USF got a shot off.
Other misidentifications, many in the final two minutes, either went uncorrected or happened so often as to render the correction meaningless.
The key matchup …
• USF junior Jamaree Bouyea makes the Dons go from the point, mainly with his scoring. He did that Saturday, though his 11 points were two under his season average. He also missed every one of the five 3-point shots he took and seven shots overall.
He did, however, stress GU’s perimeter defense, as Ryan Woolridge dealt with foul trouble all game. That helped limit his minutes and his impact on the game. The senior guard had just two assists, half his usual total.
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