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Gonzaga holds off furious Connecticut second half, escapes with 73-70 win

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Gonzaga was up by 21 points at one point.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Oh my.

Thanksgiving is often times supposed to be a holiday full of food, booze, quality family time, and relaxation. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are making sure we are having none of that. The Bulldogs led by 21 points in the game and looked like they'd be running away with the game.

UConn had a different idea, however. If there was a game to describe as the tale of two halves, this one was it. In the first half, UConn had zero ideas for how to stop the Gonzaga juggernaut. The offense was churning forward. Kyle Wiltjer was draining threes to stretch the floor and the Gonzaga defense was stifling the UConn attack.

Then the second-half started. Gonzaga came out completely stagnant. The refs definitely did their job in lending a helping hand to the UConn rally, but only so much blame can be placed on that. Gonzaga's defense looked miserable. UConn was cutting into the lane with ease and was out hustling GU for every ball.

Luckily, Gonzaga figured out how to stop "The Shining" level of blood flow just in time. Kyle Dranginis graduated from the all-glue guy to the rubber cement guy. He was the gorilla glue guy. He was the super glue guy. He was the mashing atoms together in the Hadron Collider guy. With one minute left, and Gonzaga up by one, Dranginis cleaned up the offensive board for a tip-in. Then he intercepted a pass to give the Zags just enough breathing room so that we all wouldn't suffocate.

Breathe deep Gonzaga fans. We went to the Bahamas, we stomped the much maligned Huskies. We lost by one-point to a Texas A&M team that we will all hear a lot more about as the season goes. We survived our first UCLA-level collapse. It was, for the most part, a stressful series. But again, these are games the Gonzaga Bulldogs will have to play and learn from this year. All in all, a success.

Immediate thoughts:

  • We've wondered about the backup PG, but Eric McClellan was fantastic in this game. Perkins was hampered by a ton of fouls and was a non-factor throughout the game. E-Mac picked up that slack and then some, finishing with 15 points and zero turnovers. He also looked comfortable bringing the ball up the court.
  • Silas Melson also looked nice in this game. I could care less about those two blocked three point shots that came with 0.5 seconds left on the shot clock. Those shots were not his fault. The rest of the game, Melson was aggressive and providing an offensive spark from the backcourt that is so critical for this team. He also finished with zero turnovers.
  • Kyle Wiltjer quietly finished with 17 points. Most of those game in the first half, and UConn made him a non-factor for much of the second half. Part of that issue goes with how UConn put bodies (literally) on him, and GU couldn't figure out how to get the ball into his hand. Same thing happened against Texas A&M yesterday, and Mark Few needs to figure out what the problem is. That has been two consecutive games where teams have adjusted at halftime and Gonzaga has looked confused for the second half.
  • Dranginis had the most fantastic game you could ever want from anyone. He finished with seven points, eight rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal -- all the while playing a team-high 35 minutes. Dranginis is the best glue-guy in NCAA hoops right now.
For the first time in a long while, I'm happy there isn't a Gonzaga game tomorrow. Time to relax everyone, and have a great rest of the weekend.