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Gonzaga Basketball

Recap and highlights: No. 11 Gonzaga’s balance proves too much for USC in 89-76 victory in Las Vegas

By Jim Meehan The Spokesman-Review

LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga’s bench isn’t necessarily deep – the rotation typically is seven or eight players in tighter games – but it has been productive.

GU’s starters have been solid, too. On Saturday, the Zags took their balanced approach offensively to another level to take down USC 89-76 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Backup forward Ben Gregg scored 12 key points in the second half as the 11th-ranked Zags pulled away from the Trojans (5-3). Forward Braden Huff came off the bench in the first half and dropped in 10 points to help GU build a 44-37 lead.

Gonzaga (6-1) stretched its winning streak to 16 against Pac-12 opponents. The Zags entertain Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday before taking on another Pac-12 foe, Washington, next Saturday in Seattle.

Gonzaga bolted in front 15-2 with 13 unanswered points. Freshman wing Dusty Stromer started and capped the burst with 3-pointers.

The margin grew 20-6 before USC’s offense slowly heated up. The Trojans missed their first six 3-pointers, but Boogie Ellis and Kobe Johnson connected on 3s to trim Gonzaga’s lead to 26-20.

Huff, who missed a layup on his first shot attempt, came through with four field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers, the latter boosting Gonzaga’s lead to 36-28.

Graham Ike, who also had 10 first-half points, scored inside to give GU a 44-37 edge at half. The Zags turned USC’s five turnovers into 10 points and had a 15-4 edge in fastbreak points in the opening half.

The Trojans, who came in shooting 76.5% at the free throw line, misfired on 7 of 8 attempts, including a pair of misses by Isaiah Collier with 0.9 seconds left. USC’s school-record at the line is 75.8% by the 1976 team.

Gonzaga had six players in double figures and Anton Watson just missed with nine points. Ryan Nembhard and Stromer each had 15 points. Ike and Gregg were next with 14 points and combined for 18 rebounds. Huff added 12 points and Nolan Hickman finished with 10.

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First half

20:00 – GU 0, USC 0: Zags going with same starting five of Nembhard, Hickman, Stromer, Ike and Watson. They’ll match up against USC’s Johnson, Collier, Ellis, Rodman and Morgan.

19:26 – GU 2, USC 0: Ellis misses his first 3 and the Zags take it right back for a Nembhard layup to open the scoring.

16:54 – GU 9, USC 2: Stromer 3, Nembhard layup and Ike post move makes a quick 7-0 run for the Zags. USC calls a timeout.

Trojans open 1 of 5 from the field and Zags take a 5-2 advantage on the glass.

15:12 – GU 15, USC 2: Hickman and Stromer hit back-to-back 3s at the first media timeout. Zags off to their best start of the season, opening 6 of 10 from the field and 3-for-3 on 3-pointers.

USC is ice cold at 1 of 8. Only basket came from Ellis.

11:56 – GU 20, USC 12: Trojans turn it over at the U12 media timeout, but have battled back with a 6-0 run. Collier with four points and two assists for USC.

7:49 – GU 26, USC 20: Johnson hits a 3 and USC continues to close the gap at the U8 media timeout. Trojans now 2 of 9 on 3-point attempts.

3:48 – GU 31, USC 26: Zags keeping their lead with 3-point shooting, at 5 of 10 in the game at the U4 media timeout.

Trojans backcourt doing all the work for USC. Collier has eight points and Ellis has seven.

0:40 – GU 42, USC 35: Gregg makes a put-back and the Zags take a timeout. GU closing the half strong.

Halftime

Gonzaga got off to a hot start and never let go of its lead to take a 44-37 advantage at halftime over USC in Las Vegas.

Graham Ike and Braden Huff lead with 10 points apiece, while Dusty Stromer adds eight and Ryan Nembhard has seven. 

The Zags got out to a 15-2 lead. The Trojans cut it to as little as three points, but couldn’t close the gap, as the Zags shot 6 of 11 on 3-pointers.

Boogie Ellis (10 points) and Isiah Collier (eight) kept USC in the game despite the cold start and subpar free throw shooting (1 of 8).

Second half

16:47 – GU 54, USC 41: Zags come out firing, make four straight shots, including 3s from Stromer and Watson. USC calls for a timeout. Similar start to the first half.

Stromer is up to 11 points with three 3-pointers. Ike has 12 points and eight rebounds, but has three personal fouls.

12:00 – GU 60, USC 49: Zags holding their ground as USC turns up the pressure with a full-court press. GU worked the ball inside to Huff for an easy layup at the U12 media timeout.

Zags have four scorers in double figures. Ike (12 points) is on the bench with four fouls.

7:57 – GU 69, USC 55: Gregg hits a big 3-pointer to give the Zags control at the U8 media timeout. GU having no problem dealing with foul trouble.

Zags having their best shooting night of the game at 9 of17 on 3-pointers.

6:01 – GU 75, USC 59: Gregg tips in a miss and then comes back down the court and hits another 3. USC calls a timeout as the Zags flash their frontcourt depth.

Great game from Gregg, up to 14 points and eight rebounds.

3:50 – GU 81, USC 64: All Zags at the U4 media timeout. Hard to find a place the Bulldogs play better than Las Vegas. They’re going to continue their long win streak against Pac-12 teams. 

Pregame

Gonzaga certainly isn’t taking it easy during its nonconference schedule.

The No. 11 Bulldogs (5-1) will be put to the test again Saturday night, when they face Southern California (5-2) at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Trojans were picked to finish second in the Pac-12, behind its stellar backcourt, which features All Pac-12 guard Boogie Ellis and freshman guard Isaiah Collier, who figures to be a top NBA draft pick. 

USC has had mixed results so far, beating Kansas State in its opener – who made it to last season’s Final Four – and losing to UC Irvine and Oklahoma.

Gonzaga bounced back from a loss to Purdue – the nation’s top team – at the Maui Invitational with wins over Syracuse and UCLA. The Zags returned home for a win over Cal State Bakersfield on Tuesday, before making the trip to Vegas. 

Series history

Gonzaga has a 1-2 all-time record against Southern Cal, but won the last meeting 85-66 in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The Zags easily handled the Mobley brothers in that matchup, behind 23 points from Drew Timme.

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Individual leaders

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