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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga-Grand Canyon notes: Dominick Harris supports girlfriend McKayla Williams, Zag women from locker room after NCAA win

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Dominick Harris (55) reacts after hitting a three against the Chicago State Cougars during the second half of a college basketball game on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won the game 104-65.  (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

DENVER – The televisions inside Gonzaga’s locker room gave players two games to choose from while the Bulldogs were cooling off from an 82-70 opening-round NCAA Tournament victory over Grand Canyon.

While chatting with reporters, some Gonzaga players were keeping track of the game happening less than 100 feet away at Ball Arena between No. 6 TCU and No. 11 Arizona State – the winner advancing to play the Bulldogs on Sunday in the round of 32.

Sophomore guard Dominick Harris, meanwhile, sat in a folding chair facing a screen on the opposite wall, showing a first-round NCAA game in Palo Alto, California, between the ninth-seeded Zags women and eighth-seeded Ole Miss.

Harris’ girlfriend is McKayla Williams, a starting junior guard for Lisa Fortier’s Bulldogs who averaged 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this year en route to earning All-WCC honorable mention honors.

“She’s doing amazing, her defense stands out and speaks for itself,” Harris said. “I feel like she should have won defensive player of the year in the conference, but she’s playing great. It’s a big step for her this year and the team’s playing great this year as well.”

A former four-star recruit, Harris was sidelined most of the 2021-22 season by a lower-body injury. He made a full recovery during the offseason but has played sparingly as the third guard off Mark Few’s bench behind senior Malachi Smith and sophomore Hunter Sallis, while appearing in nine of 35 games.

The Murrieta, California, said the support he’s received from Williams through the trials and tribulations of 2022-23 has been “unmatchable.”

“The energy she brings toward me is fun and keeps me grounded,” Harris said.

Schedules usually conflict during the season and GU’s men’s and women’s teams are seldom in Spokane at the same time, particularly during West Coast Conference play. Harris does his best to follow along when GU’s men aren’t preoccupied and said there’s no shortage of emotion involved when he’s able to watch games live.

“I’ll be screaming at the TV, to be honest, it’s really just fun to watch them,” Harris said. “I feel like I’m out there sometime, even though I’m not. I’m just through the TV.”

Harris said basketball isn’t usually a talking point when the two spend time together – “it’s a lot of non-basketball because we’re outoging people,” he said – but it also isn’t uncommon for the guards to trade notes and exchange tips after games.

“I will give her pointers after the game and we’ll watch film sometimes,” Harris said.

There’s one piece of advice Harris finds himself giving on a frequent basis.

“Be aggressive, be more aggressive on the offensive end,” he said. “But I feel like she’s doing a pretty good job.”

Williams, who also grew up in Southern California, went from being exclusively a role player for the Zags in 2021-22 to starting in all 35 games this season.Fortier’s team couldn’t keep pace with Ole Miss on Friday and watched the season end with a 71-48 loss at Maples Pavilion.

In the opening minutes of the women’s game, Harris, laser-focused on the television in Gonzaga’s men’s locker room, offered a prediction on Williams’ final stats.

Gonzaga guard Dominick Harris watches a first-round NCAA Tournament game between the Bulldog women and Ole Miss after the GU men beat Grand Canyon 82-70 in Denver on Friday. Harris' girlfriend, McKayla Harris, is a junior guard for the Gonzaga women.  (Theo Lawson / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Dominick Harris watches a first-round NCAA Tournament game between the Bulldog women and Ole Miss after the GU men beat Grand Canyon 82-70 in Denver on Friday. Harris’ girlfriend, McKayla Harris, is a junior guard for the Gonzaga women. (Theo Lawson / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

“I’d say she probably gets three or more steals, probably like five boards, probably about eight points,” Harris said.

Williams exceeded the prediction in one category, scoring nine points to go with five rebounds and one steal in the loss.

Upset central

Midway through the second half, with Gonzaga holding a commanding double-digit lead against Grand Canyon, the collective attention of the Ball Arena crowd turned toward a game taking place on the other side of the country.

A handful of fans had been following the action between No. 1 Purdue and No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson on mobile devices. With approximately 12 minutes left in Denver, everyone was watching the upset bid on the arena’s massive, four-sided jumbotron.

“That’s what it’s been like the whole time,” Gonzaga forward Drew Timme said. “They always put a game on the TV, and we did come out of a timeout and we heard people screaming and we were like, ‘All right, something probably happened.’ ”

Fans, arena workers and players on both benches had eyes trained on the video screen as the Knights finished off the Boilermakers for a 63-58 victory, making them the second No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history.

“Once you get on the court and we start playing, you’ve got to lock in, but it’s hard not to look up and see that game,” Gonzaga forward Anton Watson said. “The crowd’s going crazy. It’s hard not to focus on that a little bit.”

The Ball Arena crowd expressed displeasure, booing whenever the video screen pulled the Purdue-FDU stream and returned to the action between Gonzaga and GCU.

Fans erupted again when the score in Columbus, Ohio, went final.

The Bulldogs were leading the Antelopes 62-42 at that point, but Timme didn’t want to take any chances with 11 minutes left, reminding teammate to keep their “eyes on the court.”

“We don’t need another circus show going on, we’ve already got one going on right now,” Timme said. “Coach can attest to our focus being a little spacey at times, just a bit, so just trying to stay as focused as we can in the moment was important to us.”

Drew on Drew

Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew might have welcomed any and all advice on the best way to contain Gonzaga’s Timme ahead of Friday’s matchup.

Drew’s older brother Scott has had as much success as any coach in the country in that department, holding Timme to 21 combined points and 13 total shot attempts during Baylor’s wins over Gonzaga in the 2021 national championship game and last December at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. There may have been some communication between the Drew brothers in the lead-up to Friday’s game, especially with Baylor also opening the NCAA Tournament in Denver, but Grand Canyon didn’t overhaul its defensive scheme in an attempt to slow Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer.

“Baylor defends so much differently than us in schemes, so we weren’t going to change our whole team in a week,” Bryce Drew said.

Timme started slow, scoring just six points in the first half, but as he’s done more than once in his four-year career, the All-American big man found a way to turn it on in the second half, scoring 15 points to finish with 21.

“Yvan (Ouedraogo) is our best interior defender, and for the most part, I thought he did a decent job,” Drew said. “Despite that, he still had 21 points, but he’s just that good of a player. Again, he’s probably the most recognizable player in the whole NCAA Tournament, and I expect him to have more big games in this tournament.”