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Gonzaga Basketball

Recap and highlights: Gonzaga pulls away for 94-81 win over Santa Clara, another key victory down stretch

By Theo Lawson The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga players were adamant the Bulldogs have changed since losing to Santa Clara in gut-wrenching fashion last month at the Leavey Center.

Now they have a result to prove it.

Santa Clara’s size and physicality presented problems for Gonzaga, but it was nothing the Bulldogs couldn’t handle in their home regular-season finale, overcome first-half adversity at the McCarthey Athletic Center to pull away from the Broncos for a 94-81 victory.

Five Gonzaga players finished in double figures, led by a fifth straight 20-point effort from Graham Ike, who scored a season-high 26 points on 9 of 13 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free throw line.

Nolan Hickman’s 3-point shooting streak continued at the Kennel, where the junior guard matched his season high with five 3-pointers – on seven attempts – and scored 20 points to go with five assists.

Anton Watson, the only Zag honored during pregame Senior Day festivities, scored 13 points to go with five rebounds in his final home game. Ryan Nembhard had 17 points, six rebounds and six assists while Dusty Stromer added 10 points and four rebounds, playing key minutes off the bench in the second half.

Gonzaga (22-6, 12-2), still second in the West Coast Conference standings, now turns its attention to a crucial two-game road trip to the Bay Area, where the Bulldogs will face third-place San Francisco (22-7, 11-3) on Thursday at the Chase Center and first-place Saint Mary’s (23-6, 14-0) on Saturday at UCU Pavilion in Moraga.

Santa Clara opened 6 of 10 from the 3-point line and led by five points with 6 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first half, but Gonzaga closed the frame on a 19-10 run to enter the break leading 52-46.

The Bulldogs didn’t let off the pedal in the second half, even when Nembhard went to the bench at the 15-minute, 48-second mark. Stromer replaced the junior point guard and led a 10-4 Gonzaga run, scoring five points during the stretch to help the Bulldogs extend the lead to 69-55.

Santa Clara starters Christoph Tilly and Adama Bal both fouled out inside the game’s final five minutes. Tilly led the Broncos with 18 points and eight rebounds.

BOX SCORE

First half

17:37 – SC 9, GU 4: Strong start for the Broncos, who start 3 of 4 from the field and make two free throws after a foul called against Ike.

15:58 – SC 12, GU 9: Nembhard with a nice feed to Ike under the basket and the Broncos turn it over at the other end to trigger the first media timeout.

SC has two 3-pointers early, both teams 4 of 6 from the field. Hickman converted GU’s lone 3-point attempt.

10:03 – SC 26, GU 23: Zags take the lead, but the Broncos snatch it back with a 5-0 run. GU calls a timeout.

Broncos matching GU shooting 10 of 17 from the field. Broncos 4 of 8 on 3-pointers.

O’neil leads SC with eight points, while Tongue adds seven. Hickman leads the Zags with eight points.

7:52 – SC 32, GU 29: Watson picks up two quick fouls and Tilly will shoot free throws after the U8 media timeout. 

Broncos have been red-hot this half, 6 of 10 on 3-pointers. They’ve hit 5 of their last 6 attempts.

3:27 – GU 44, SC 40: Hickman hits his fourth 3-pointer as the Zags take the lead. He leads with 14 points and has not missed a 3-point attempt.

Nembhard steering GU’s offense well. He has eight points, five assists and four rebounds.

Halftime

A high-pace first half featured plenty of offense and Gonzaga leading Santa Clara 52-46 in the Zags home finale.

Gonzaga shot 63% from the field (5 of 8 3-pointers), while Santa Clara was 55% (6 of 13).

Santa Clara led for 30 seconds longer, but GU pulled ahead with a 13-6 run to close the half.

Graham Ike leads GU with 16 points, shooting 5 of 5 from the field and 6 of 7 on free throws. Nolan Hickman adds 14 points, shooting 4 of 5 on 3-pointers. Andrew Nembhard has eight points, five rebounds and five assists.

Johnny O’Neil was stellar for the Broncos with 13 points, shooting 3 of 4 on 3s.

Second half

17:13 – GU 56, SC 51: Zags build their lead to 10, but the Broncos erase it with a big dunk from Tilly and a 3-pointer from O’Neil – his fourth of the game. SC calls a timeout after Hickman is called for a foul.

Nembhard has reached double figures and is on triple-double watch with 10 points, six rebound and five assists.

15:48 – GU 56, SC 51: Teams trade turnovers at the U16 media timeout. Zags on a 2:47 scoring drought.

14:31 – GU 62, SC 51: Zags go up double figures in a blink, as Stromer and Hickman hit back-to-back 3-pointers. Broncos call a timeout.

GU is 7 of 13 on 3-pointers. Hickman has hit five of those, he leads with 17 points.

12:05 – GU 69, SC 55: Watson hits a shot to give the Zags their largest lead of the game and Santa Clara calls another timeout. GU with a 17-9 advantage in the half, as the Broncos have finally fallen behind their scoring pace.

7:58 – GU 76, SC 60: Watson called for his third foul at the U8 media timeout. Zags still in control.

Ike eclipses 20 points, he leads five Zags in double figures ahead of Hickman (17), Nembhard (10), Watson (10) and Stromer (10).

3:18 – GU 86, SC 68: Nembhard drives for a layup, up to 16 points, and commits a foul on the other end at the U4 media timeout. 

1:37 – GU 89, SC 79: Not so fast, as Santa Clara hits back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to 10. Zags timeout.

1:02 – GU 92, SC 79: Now Broncos resorting to fouls, deficit looks to large to overcome.

Starting 5: Zags keep the same starters of Nembhard, Hickman, Ike, Watson and Gregg. Broncos rolling out Knapper (5.9 ppg), Bal (14.6), Ensminger (4.3), O’Neil (11) and Tilly (9.1).

Pregame

Gonzaga didn’t forget its last meeting with Santa Clara.

Immediately following GU’s win over Portland on Thursday, guard Nolan Hickman told reporters the Zags are focused on the upcoming game against SCU and getting revenge for a 77-76 loss on Jan. 11.

Hickman and the Zags won’t have to wait much longer.

Gonzaga tips off against Santa Clara at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. GU’s home finale will serve as senior night at McCarthey Athletic Center, where Anton Watson will be honored.

The Bulldogs (21-6, 11-2 West Coast) are riding a five-game win streak. The Broncos (18-10, 9-4) are on a three-game win streak after losing their previous three.

Series history

Gonzaga holds a 70-31 all-time series lead over Santa Clara. The Broncos snapped a 26-game win streak by GU with its win on Jan. 11.

Team stats

Individual leaders

Game preview

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