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Transfer guard Rasir Bolton hits half-court bomb, gives Gonzaga vital lift in win over Texas

Rasir Bolton came to Gonzaga with an objective many of the program’s most successful transfer guards can relate to: win on the big stage, even if it means sacrificing individual accolades for the opportunity to play deep into the month of March.

Bolton hasn’t had to sacrifice too much through the first two games of the 2021-22 season and though it was Drew Timme who led No. 1 Gonzaga on the scoresheet in an 86-74 win over No. 5 Texas Saturday night, the Bulldogs may have been in a tighter game down the stretch if it wasn’t for a few clutch shots from the Iowa State transfer.

Proving that every superhero needs a sidekick, Timme’s 37-point outing was complemented by 16 points from Bolton, who drained a jaw-dropping half-court buzzer-beater to end the first half and followed by making a few more key 3-pointers as the Bulldogs closed out the Longhorns for their first marquee win of the new season.

Bolton also reached double figures in his Gonzaga debut, scoring 15 points with three assists and three rebounds against Dixie State. He’s 11 of 18 from the field in his first two games and 7 of 10 from beyond the arc.

Though Timme left McCarthey Athletic Center with player of the game honors, Bolton was the Zag most likely to find himself on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 segment Saturday night after he picked up a loose ball and hurled a 50-foot shot from the timeline.

Recalling the moment, Bolton said “Honestly I just picked it up and tried to get it off before the clock went out. So it went and it was a lot of fun, but I didn’t think it was going to go in.”

The Zags counted on Bolton coming out of the halftime break, against a gritty Texas team that managed to close the gap to 11 points on multiple occasions. When Texas closed it to 64-53 on Tre Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 8:10 to play, point guard Andrew Nembhard dished to Bolton, who made another long bomb to extend the GU lead. The Bulldogs hadn’t quite sealed up the win with 5:05 remaining, but Bolton hit a dagger 3-pointer, again on a Nembhard assist, to extend a 14-point lead to 17 points.

“I think he hit two huge shots tonight when they were making runs at us and we needed to establish some other people other than Drew being able to score, and he hit two back-breakers then Nolan hit a big one, too,” GU coach Mark Few said. “That’s why he’s here, that’s why we wanted him here. He’s shown he can do that throughout his whole career and once we met him in the recruiting process and just talked about, he just wanted to win and get to the NCAA Tournament and have some success on that level, we knew we had the right guy.

“So he’s been the right guy from day one. He’s been a joy to coach and we need him desperately.”

Bolton, who missed out on the NCAA Tournament the last four seasons at Iowa State and Penn State, said he’s enjoyed his experience at Gonzaga up to this point. Saturday also marked Bolton’s first win over Texas after dropping the last four opportunities in Big-12 play with the Cyclones.

“It’s been a lot of fun, just being part of this new team, this new journey,” he said. “So I just came in, tried to lead from an older aspect knowing the game and being in college for four years. Then just playing my role, helping guys out, knocking down shots and making it easier for these guys to do what they do.”