UCLA came into the Kennel, and became just the 8th non-WCC team to win in the McCarthey Athletic Center. The game started off with a flurry, UCLA came out and hit some big shots to start the game, jumping out to a 13-5 lead. Then Wiltjer responded by hitting three straight three pointers. Can you imagine where we'd be without him? The game then settled down, and the first half closed with good defense on both sides of the court. Gonzaga especially clamped down on defense, as UCLA had 17 points in the opening 5+ minutes, and had a combined 13 points in the 14+ minutes to end the first half. The first half ended 32-30, with the Zags leading. The last bucket was an offensive rebound and basket by Ryan Edwards.
The second half started well enough, with Domantas Sabonis putting good pressure on the frontcourt of the Bruins, by forcing a foul on Thomas Welsh, and hitting both free throws. The Zags eventually pushed the lead to 5, off a and-one by Sabonis with 17:58 remaining. The rest of the second half was a chippy affair, with both teams taking slight leads, and subsequently losing them. Eventually UCLA pushed out to an 8 point lead. Bryce Alford had a golden chance to push the lead to 11, but missed his 3 point attempt. On the possession directly afterward, Kyle Wiltjer hit a 3 pointer, cutting the Bruin's lead to 5, forcing a timeout from UCLA. Coming out of the timeout, Eric McClellan had a great steal, and then assisted Sabonis on a dunk and foul, also forcing UCLA's Welsh into his 4th personal foul, at this point, it seemed the tides had turned.
The turning point in the comeback for me, was when Josh Perkins had an excellent block, the ball fell to McClellan, who raced up the court, was forced into a bad angle by the UCLA defense, and hucked up an unlikely shot, resulting in essentially a turnover. Here I'd like McClellan to have better awareness of the game clock, and situation, to pull back the ball, as the Zags were down 1 point at that time, rather than throw up a shot against 2 defenders, falling away from the basket. From there, UCLA hit a few buckets, and the Zags fought back. Kyle Dranginis had an opportunity to hit the game tying 3 pointer with 10 seconds left, but missed. UCLA closed out the game on a few free throws and went on to win.
A few thoughts:
- It was amusing when ESPN put up Karnowski's stats from the season, as they look pretty horrendous. I can understand why someone might ask (looking at those stats) "Gonzaga is missing that guy?? He's shooting 25% from the field!". They are wrong. Karnowski would have REALLY helped shutting down Parker (as he did multiple times last season), and really does help the flow of the offense. His passing, decision making, and defensive leadership make him invaluable to this team. Get well soon Karno.
- McClellan and Perkins are maddeningly inconsistent. For every beautiful play they make, they seem to make a similarly horrible decision, which really makes it hard to love their performances. If they could cut half of the stupid, stupid turnovers out of their games, they would truly be good guards for Gonzaga. As it is, there's not a lot to love. Here's to hoping for some improvement.
- We need to pay a team to let Silas Melson make some layups, and hope that gives him some confidence to hit some shots. Over the last 3 games, Silas is a whopping 0-12 from the field. While he does some good things on the defensive end (also registering a steal each of those games) it's hard to keep someone on the court, while they are clearly not a threat to score, at any time. I understand this is just a slump, but it's hard to remember a Gonzaga player having this bad of a slump.