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Gonzaga holds down All-WCC guard Jamaree Bouyea to beat San Francisco in WCC semifinals

San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea tries to get around Gonzaga’s Hunter Sallis, facing, during Monday’s WCC semifinal at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga’s offense was humming along with a shooting percentage in the mid 60s well into the second half. It was easy to overlook the converse at the other end of the court. San Francisco was in the low 30s.

With USF All-WCC center Yauhen Massalski sidelined due to a knee injury, even more of the offensive burden fell on the talented backcourt tandem of Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz.

The Dons, and Shabazz in particular, heated up later in the second half to make the closing minutes uncomfortable for GU in an 81-71 win Monday, but Bouyea never found his comfort zone against the Zags’ defense.

Bouyea, who joined Massalski as a first-team All-WCC selection, had one of his worst nights in an otherwise outstanding senior season. He was limited to five points, made only 1 of 11 shots and misfired on all seven of his 3-point attempts.

The credit for that goes to GU guards Rasir Bolton, Nolan Hickman and occasionally Andrew Nembhard as primary defenders on Bouyea, with Chet Holmgren’s rim protection also playing a key role.

“Bouyea is a phenomenal point guard,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He’ll give you nightmares the night before a game. He manipulates any coverage you do with ball screens. He can score at all three level.

“He just had one of those nights. We did a good job. Playing him three times, guys had a really good feel of what he’s been successful with. Having Chet back there defensively is such a nice advantage. You can really crowd guys (outside) and funnel them into Chet and they always know he’s there.”

Bouyea has been one of the conference’s most productive players, averaging 17.1 points per game, hitting nearly 48% of his shots, including 38.4% from distance. His performance has put him on the radar of NBA scouts and he’s appeared in several mock drafts.

He couldn’t get untracked against the Zags. He was limited to his third lowest scoring output of the season (two points vs. Saint Mary’s, four points vs. Arizona State).

“We have really good guards that can penetrate and usually rim finish,” San Francisco coach Todd Golden said. “Jamaree is one of the best in the country at that. Chet just makes it really hard on him. He had some trouble finishing inside and that usually gets him going. He’s able to get downhill and make some tough finishes around the rim and it kind of loosens him up.

“Not having Yauhen out there was definitely part of it, too. He’s a really good secondary playmaker. We weren’t ourselves. We had to make a big adjustment going into this game. It took us a while to figure that out.”

Gonzaga slowed down Shabazz, a second-team All-WCC selection, for 20 minutes. He was 2 of 9 from the field and had just four points as the Zags constructed a 47-27 halftime lead.

Shabazz turned it around, nailing five second-half 3-pointers and finishing with 27 points. He was 10 of 25 from the field, moving his three-game total against Gonzaga this season to 21 of 59 (35.5%).

“It’s two halves,” Shabazz said. “Regardless of what happens in the first half, whether you’re hot or you’re not, just keep shooting, trust yourself, your shot, the play.”

Bouyea had a 25-point effort against the Zags in January and 14 points in the rematch on Feb. 24. He’s 16 of 46 (34.8%) in three games vs. Gonzaga.