The bad vibes from last week’s loss to BYU seemed to carry over into the first half of this game for Gonzaga. But, the Zags turned the page (I imagine a Tommy Lloyd tongue-lashing at halftime was involved) in the second half and returned to their dominant ways en route to sending Pacific packing in an 82-50 win.
Jordan Mathews led all scorers with 22 points (20 in the second half) in what was certainly his best game in a Gonzaga uniform. Nigel Williams-Goss finished with 20 points, and Johnathan Williams III had 11 points. Senior TJ Wallace scored 21 points for Pacific, and Ray Bowles finished with 14 after going off for a career-high 26 points against Pepperdine one day prior.
After hitting the first three shots of the game, the Zags only made one of the next 11 shot attempts as they slipped into a troubling funk for the remainder of the half. Nothing seemed to be working for Gonzaga’s offense, as it didn’t discriminate between missing from inside or out. At the break, the Zags only had four turnovers compared to nine turnovers, a ratio that would typically spell doom for a team’s chances at victory.
Fortunately for Gonzaga, Pacific’s offense came back down to earth after its scorching performance against Pepperdine in the opening round of the WCC Tournament. The Tigers were unable to take advantage of Gonzaga’s struggles, and still went into the half trailing 27-25 despite the Zags gifting them with a golden opportunity in the opening 20 minutes.
Gonzaga started to show signs of life at the outset of the second half. Jordan Mathews broke up a Pacific fast break with an acrobatic interception of an outlet pass, then took it back the other way to convert an “and-1” that seemed to energize the squad. A few minutes later, with the Zags in the midst of shooting 6-7 from the field, Mathews sunk a transition 3 that propelled Gonzaga to a 14-point lead and erased any hope for Pacific that it could pull off a titanic upset.
The rest of the game featured Gonzaga (hopefully) rediscovering its mojo, erasing the ugly play of the first half with dominance in the second. However, if Gonzaga is serious about making a run to the Final Four, it cannot have another half like the first one of this game. Against tournament teams, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover from a stretch of basketball like we saw in the opening 20 minutes. The Zags need to find their swagger and find it quick—March is here.