Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Julian Strawther comes up clutch as Gonzaga rallies past Xavier 88-84

Nov. 27, 2022 Updated Sun., Nov. 27, 2022 at 9:17 p.m.

PORTLAND – On a night that was the ultimate roller coaster ride for Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, teammate Julian Strawther made sure a wild 40 minutes of basketball arrived safely in the win column.

Strawther saved his best for last, scoring 10 of his career-high 23 points in the final four minutes as sixth-ranked Gonzaga rallied for an 88-84 victory over Xavier at Veterans Memorial Coliseum to capture third place Sunday in the Phil Knight Legacy tournament.

Strawther – and several of his teammates – responded in crunch time after a rocky showing in Friday’s loss to Purdue.

“Obviously really disappointed in how the game went for myself and the team the other day,” the junior wing said. “Just making sure we bounced back. We didn’t want to get on this plane with our heads down. We really wanted to go home with high heads and take something positive from this trip.”

Deep into the second half, it looked like Xavier (4-3) would be the team enjoying a happy flight home. The Zags (5-2) had the upper hand most of the way, but another second-half lull left them in a 71-63 hole and staring at a two-game losing streak for the first time since falling to Tennessee and North Carolina early in the 2018-19 season.

Strawther hit a floater to tie it at 73 and buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Gonzaga the lead for good at 76-75 with 3:15 remaining.

That was just the beginning. After Anton Watson’s floater in the lane, Strawther nailed another 3-pointer with time fading on the shot clock. Watson, who bounced back with 14 points and seven boards, added two free throws and Gonzaga led 83-75 with 56 seconds remaining.

Gonzaga made it more interesting than it needed to be by missing the front end of two 1-and-1s and committing an unnecessary foul before Strawther iced it with pair of free throws with 2 seconds left.

“Let me tip my cap to Julian,” Musketeers coach Sean Miller said. “I watched him as a high school player in Las Vegas. What’s he’s become as a player, it’s a tribute to Gonzaga and their staff. It’s really a tribute to Julian.

“Those two 3-point shots, they weren’t easy ones, and we had our best defender on him (Colby Jones). That’s what players like him do. I felt both of those 3s were arguably the two biggest shots in the game.”

Strawther, who connected on 5 of 8 3s, had company in the clutch shot department. All five Zags starters scored at least 13 points. Rasir Bolton started GU’s comeback with a 3-pointer, and Nolan Hickman followed with his fourth 3. Hickman had a strong tournament, capped with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists Sunday.

The roller coaster ride was rough for Timme in the opening half as the All-American made just 2 of 7 shots and missed both of his free throws while committing four turnovers.

The senior forward is usually the one motivating teammates with fiery halftime speeches, but this time it was his teammates who picked him up.

“He was telling us, ‘Hey I’m struggling, like carry me through this rough patch,’” Strawther said. “We told him, ‘Forget that. We’re going to get you the ball early and get you going.’ I feel like we did a great job of that in the first four minutes of the second half. That got him going and that got us going.”

Timme maneuvered for four layups in the first 2:15 of the second half as Gonzaga stretched its lead to 48-39. Gonzaga’s defense, though, slipped and the Musketeers, behind Souley Boum and senior forward Jack Nunge, traced into the lead.

Boum, who averages 15.6 points, was scoreless in the opening half. He scored 10 points in the second, but the Zags switched defenders later in the half and Bolton slowed down the senior guard.

Nunge scored inside and outside, including nine straight points as Xavier expanded its lead. He finished with 25 points but didn’t attempt a shot in the closing four minutes.

“We made some plays,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We scrambled around after some defensive rotations, we blocked some balls at the rim. In that run they made, there was a lot of 50-50 balls just hanging out there, and Xavier did a great job of grabbing them. We kind of flipped the switch.”

Timme’s stats matched his eventful night: 8 of 16 from the field, 2 of 4 at the foul line, 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers.

“That second half he got going and it was like, ‘You can’t stop him,’ ” Watson said. “We’ve seen it before.”

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Follow along with the Zags

Subscribe to our Gonzaga Basketball newsletter to stay up with the latest news.