The Gonzaga Bulldogs are going to have a week of hell in practice after they nearly coughed up what seemed to be an easy win over the Texas Longhorns, 76-71, in their final game of the PK80 Invitational.
The turnovers were abundant early (and throughout the entire game), but Gonzaga went into halftime with a comfortable 14 point lead. Rui Hachimura, pressed into service after Killian Tilie went to the bench with foul trouble, put together his best game in a Gonzaga uniform, with 12 points and six rebounds at half. Josh Perkins had 12 points and five assists. The Zags had 12 assists on 15 made field goals, had a 24-0 run at one point, and despite the turnovers, looked like it would be an easy win.
But apparently Texas isn’t as bad as they looked in the first half. The Longhorns switched to their “havoc” defense, and Gonzaga, in an attempt to look as lazy as possible, made it a game with less than five minutes to play. It was a startling turn of events, and one that is a bit worrisome. Texas’ full court pressure demolished the Zags, with consecutive turnovers in the backcourt off of unbelievably lackluster passes.
Slowly but surely, Texas chipped away and chipped away. The Longhorns made nine of their final 10 shots in regulation. Gonzaga has 11 turnovers in the final seven minutes. The icing on the cake was an inexplicable hail mary pass from Perkins at the baseline that left everyone befuddled. Andrew Jones made an amazing off balance three to tie the game with one second remaining, and the Zags and Longhorns both had their second-consecutive overtime game.
Gonzaga wheels, which were completely blown off and the team in full Flintstones’ car mode, finally found their way back during overtime. The defense ratcheted up its pressure again, and a big steal by Silas Melson with ten seconds left to play gave us the breathing room we hadn’t had for 25 minutes.
The game, if anything, reflected a bit of what we know about Gonzaga: they will be inconsistent this year. It was fantastic seeing the game from Hachimura, but he also rode the bench for much of the second half despite being the best player on the floor—a rather interesting decision by the Gonzaga coaching staff. Perkins appeared to be having a great game, all considering, until his rash decision to emulate Doug Flutie. After his amazing game on Friday, Williams turned in one of the worst performances he has had in a Gonzaga uniform, scoring just 10 points and turning the ball over six times. Tillie, not to be out done, also finished with 10 points and six turnovers.
It wasn’t all bad, however. So let’s jam out a few quick positives:
- This was the game we needed to see from Hachimura. He finished with 20 points and nine rebounds. He was fluid on offense and the exact spark this squad needed.
- Corey Kispert is probably the rock that keeps this team together. Whenever he is on the floor, it is hard to believe he is just a freshmen.
- Although Melson had a rough shooting tournament, he hit a huge three and had the biggest steal of the game. It was nice to see that the missed free throw from Friday didn’t destroy his mental fortitude.
If anything, this was a poor team outing from a majority of the squad. You just aren’t supposed to win games where you turn the ball over 24 (24!!! times). Luckily, the Zags were able to put a clamp on the gaping wound and hold off until the bitter end. A win is a win, I guess, and hopefully, the entire coaching staff puts this squad through living hell at practice this week. After the “feel good” loss against Florida on Friday, it was hard to have a win taste any more poorly than today’s.