Gonzaga and Tennessee treated the rest of the nation to a premier college basketball game, trading baskets and blows like two top 10 teams do for the better part of 40 minutes.
Senior Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield picked a good night for his career-high, scoring 30 points and hitting the go-ahead three on a blown Gonzaga defensive coverage with 20 seconds left. Zach Norvell missed the three on the other end, and Tennessee came away with the win.
Things were looking shaky from the very beginning. Gonzaga had an uneven first half. Tennessee jumped out to an early lead, and the Zags looked a bit unsure on defensive rotations. Gonzaga settled down, and behind the offense of Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusev, and Brandon Clarke, the Zags only trailed 34-33 at half. And when I say behind the offense, I mean only those four players scored.
The Tennessee offense, despite shooting just 32.4 percent, kept it close with seven offensive rebounds and just three turnovers in the first half.
In the second half, Brandon Clarke started to take over, cementing it with the block heard around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen ... Here. It. Is. pic.twitter.com/FGBaKgJPhg— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) December 9, 2018
But the Zags just could not put Gonzaga away. Twenty-five of Schofield’s points came in the second-half. Whenever Gonzaga tried for the big pull away, Schofield was right there, going so far to even have the audacity to bank in a three.
Credit to the Tennessee defense. It held the Zags backcourt to absolute fits. Norvell tried to heat up, scoring 13 second-half points, but was 5-of-13 in the process. Josh Perkins finished with zero points, shooting just 0-for-6, although he garnered nine assists to move past John Stockton for fourth all-time.
This was always the roughest stretch in Gonzaga’s schedule, and the Zags made sure Tennessee could stay in it. The Volunteers finished 16 (16!!!!) offensive rebounds. It was a stellar basketball game on both sides, but the Volunteers were trying harder for those second-chance points.
In the end, it was a blown defensive coverage on the hottest shooter that sealed the deal for the Zags, and that seemed fitting. Although the Zags put it back together on the back of their defense in the first half, Tennessee showed the Zags still have plenty of focus required on the defensive end this season to become a truly elite team.