As we've said for a majority of the season, tonight's game was nowhere near pretty but it got the job done. Gonzaga survived an upset-minded San Francisco team by a score of 71-67. Overall it was a pretty wild and wacky game that at some points you were convinced the Zags were about to throttle the Dons and other times you were wondering if this team was even worthy of playing in March. In the end, the Zags did enough to advance to the finals where they will play Saint Mary's for the third time this season.
The story of the game (and for the past month or so) was Marquise Carter. At some point, when no one was looking, Marquise transformed himself from the lost guy on the court to possibly Gonzaga's most indispensable. Carter once again logged a game high 38 minutes, shot 4-9 from the floor, went 10-12 from the line, and had three steals. He's become extraordinarily reliable and it has become crystal clear that when the game is in the balance, the offense is going to go through him. Carter sank eight free throws in the final minute of the game and had a huge steal near the end to seal things up for the Zags. I can't say I have ever seen such a remarkable in-season transformation as the one Marquise is currently pulling off.
for more on tonight's game read on after the jump....
While Marquise stepped up in the clutch, this game was largely frustrating to watch. For me, it boils down to the fact that this team has shown little ability to drive the dagger into a team early in games. Sure they can dominate the cupcakes but this was a game where Gonzaga had a number of double-digit leads and could not simply finish the Dons. A lot of it is execution by the five on the court but I still just don't understand the almost forced substitution patterns. I try to understand the late game situations but I don't understand why Mike Hart needs to enter the game when Gonzaga is up by ten or more points. Against any team, particularly one of inferior talent, it is imperative that you seize the momentum and end the game as early as possible. I never felt like Gonzaga was sticking with what worked. It has been a problem all season and tomorrow, with plenty on the line, the Zags are going to have to seize the momentum when it comes along because that window of opportunity will be much smaller against the Gaels.
The officiating was pretty horrid both ways but that is par for the course in this conference. Ticky tack fouls are going to get called in this league but I thought Meech and Stockton both played very physical defense and were able to curtail their fouls when they had to late. Holding USF's backcourt trio of Green, Williams, and Doolin to 10-23 from the floor is no small feat and it was great to see perimeter defense not be a defining factor in this one.
In case you missed ESPN2 hyping at after and before every commercial break, next up is round three of Saint Mary's-Gonzaga. Both games this season have been absolute classics but there's no doubt the Zags have to come out and play a much more complete game than what we saw tonight. Tip off of that one is at 6 PM on ESPN.