Gonzaga has traditionally had a tough go of things when playing the University of San Francisco in the War Memorial Gymnasium. Just last year, it took a 16-point comeback in the second half and overtime for the Bulldogs to beat the Dons, and most fans remember the three consecutive losses at the start of this decade. So, Gonzaga fans can be forgiven for being a little apprehensive heading into this game considering USF’s strong start to this season. However, the Zags have Nigel Williams-Goss and no one else does (Thanks Romar).
Williams-Goss put on a show at the Hilltop, notching a new career high in scoring with a ridiculously efficient 36 points (12-15 shooting), 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and only 1 turnover. Double-digit scoring efforts from Jordan Mathews (16 points...he’s probably still open in the corner), Killian Tillie (12 points), and Przemek Karnowski (10 points) helped the Zags avoid having to sweat this one out.
The Dons came out aggressively, collecting a loose ball off the tip and taking it straight to the bucket. The teams traded baskets for much of the first few minutes of the game, but the uptempo pace began to favor Gonzaga as the teams began to dip into their benches.
The young Dons showed what they could be in the future as they played an aggressive brand of basketball highlighted by freshman guard Jordan Ratinho’s (20 points) fearless forays to the rim. But, USF struggled from the arc (7-29) against Gonzaga’s stingy defense—an area where they have excelled for much of the season—failing to get the strong output they needed to knock off the Zags.
However, there’s still a sizable talent gap between these two squads, and Gonzaga just had too many weapons to throw at USF along with their not-so secret weapon in Williams-Goss. The junior point guard put in a virtuoso performance as he pulled the right strings all game long, creating great scoring opportunities for his teammates off dribble penetration or scoring himself from outside or at the rim.
Outside of a sloppy stretch of play late in the first half that saw the Zags get careless with their ball security, this was a very crisp performance on both ends of the floor for the 5th-ranked team in the country. And while the margin of victory was less than the victory at Pacific last weekend, the quality of play was significantly higher. Considering how difficult USF-away has been for Gonzaga in the past, the Zags should be happy to leave the Bay with another solid W to add to the resume.