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Gonzaga loses another heartbreaker to St. Mary's

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Another game, another big second half lead blown.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga loses a heartbreaking game in Moraga vs St. Mary's. This game meant a lot to both programs, both emotionally, and in terms of the WCC standings.

The first half started off fairly cagey, with both teams bunkering down defensively, and not giving up a lot of opportunities. Enter Eric McClellan, who took over the game, putting up back to back three pointers, notching a few assists, and hitting quite a few jumpers and lay-ins. One thing I love about this team, is watching Sabonis drop off little passes for layups. At one point early in the first half, I can remember back to back Sabonis assist possessions, which is truly a great strength to have. Sabonis ended the game with 7 assists. That's nuts! I'll mark that up to big Przem showing the young Lithuanian the art of the assist.

Throughout the first half, there were mini runs by both teams, and the half for GU was capped by back to back Dranginis three pointers. While the defense was outstanding for a large majority of the first half, there were also maddening lapses in concentration that gave up easy buckets. On more than one occasion, I found myself groaning as Kyle Wiltjer was too slow to react, as the Gael he was marking ran by him, on route to a layup. That said, the general defensive intensity, and pressure Gonzaga put on St. Mary's was the primary reason the first half went as well as it did.

The second half started much like the first, with Sabonis taking over where McClellan left off, completely dominating the opening minutes. The Gonzaga lead would balloon up to 15 points at one point in the second half, but St. Mary's kept crawling back into the game, chipping away at the GU lead.

St. Mary's pulled ahead 65-64 through a Joe Rahon layup, with 2:45 left in the game. A Wiltjer turnover, and Evan Fitzner layup later, the Zags were down 67-64. Sabonis earned himself a trip to the free throw line, missed one and converted one, cutting the Gael lead to 2. The Zags played great defense the next possesion, and Rahon forced up a three point jumper and missed. McClellan grabbed the rebound, and pushed the Zags up the court. Kyle Dranginis had a great drive to the rim and finished his lay-in through contact, the score was now 67-67.

The subsequent defensive possession for the Zags seemed to be going great, when Sabonis was called for a very ticky-tack block with 6 seconds left in the game. Rahon made one, and missed one free throw. McClellan rebounded the ball, and sprinted up the court. While McClellan was sprinting up the court, Rahon momentarily lost his mind, and fouled McClellan 50 feet from the basket, resulting in a Gonzaga 1 and 1 with 3 seconds left in the game, and the score at 67-68 in favor of St. Mary's. McClellan missed the front end of the 1 and 1, and the rest is history.

One thing that really bothered me about this game, was the foul given on Sabonis with 6 seconds left in the game. You just can't let the game be decided on a ghost call like that. Period. If Rahon hadn't done the honorable thing, and given us a chance to win the game at the line, I'd be a lot more frustrated.

Some thoughts:

  1. I mentioned this above, but Sabonis having 7 assists is nuts. It's a real pleasure watching the evolution of his game.
  2. When are the boys going to learn to keep their foot on the gas, and close games like this out? Hopefully this is just a symptom of inexperience.
  3. Frankly, Wiltjer was pretty horrible tonight, turning the ball over frequently, and terrible on defense. Not his best game.
  4. Speaking of frankly, I'm beginning to think Melson may not have much of a future with Gonzaga. With the talent coming down the pipe, it's hard to see him getting minutes, with his recent play. He definitely has the tools, but will he make it all click?
Another tough loss, but we are far from out of the running in the WCC. We just have to take it a game at a time, and focus on improving every day.

Go Zags.