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This Week in Gonzaga History: New Year’s Eve and Hilltop Classics

Plus a couple crazy wins on the Hilltop

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY

The time machine was broken last week during the holiday season. That’s okay, though, because nobody needs or wants to re-live Portland State upsetting Gonzaga. We are back this week and going back in time to remember some epic New Year’s Eve match-ups. Let’s journey through history and take a look at the week of December 30-January 5.

December 30, 2004 – Missouri upsets #15 Gonzaga

Gonzaga was 10-1 at the time, facing a 6-5 Missouri team in Columbia. Ronny Turiaf had both of his ankles injured and went 2-for-15 from the field, including missing two free throws that would have tied the game with under 10 seconds remaining. He also rushed a shot off the side of the backboard with three seconds to go, which ended up in the hands of Adam Morrison, who also missed as time expired. Despite scoring two points in the final eight minutes, Mizzou held on to a 63-61 victory.

December 31, 2001 – Dan Dickau beats St. Joseph’s

Everybody knew who would take the shot. The defense still couldn’t stop it. Dan Dickau nailed a three with 3.6 seconds remaining to lift #22 Gonzaga to an 83-80 victory at St. Joseph’s. Dickau scored 25 for the Bulldogs, including their final nine points. “I knew I wanted to take that shot,” Dickau said after the game. “I thought I’d make it.”

December 31, 2002 – St. Joseph’s gets revenge

Jameer Nelson scored a career-high 34 points, including the game winner, as St Joe’s ended Gonzaga’s 29-game home winning streak with a 79-78 overtime win. Gonzaga rallied back from a double-digit deficit late in the game to force overtime. In a chaotic final few minutes, Richard Fox gave the Zags the lead with 20 seconds left before Jameer Nelson hit a twisting lay-in. Fox had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but his shot from the foul line clanked off the iron.

December 31, 2012 – Gary Bell’s Clutch 3 in Stillwater

Gary Bell missed nearly eight minutes of the second half with a knee injury. He came back and missed three straight shots. But with the Zags down 65-64 and a minute to go, he came off a Mike Hart screen and nailed an enormous three that would propel #10 Gonzaga over #22 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Shout out to Marcus Smart for missing potential game-tying free throws.

December 31, 2015 – Josh Perkins’ Career Night

Josh Perkins scored a career-high 26 points and Gonzaga held on to beat Santa Clara 79-77 in a New Year’s Eve matinee game in the Bay Area. The game is notable because the 26 point outburst from Perkins remains the most he’s ever scored in a Gonzaga uniform. He was 10-for-12 from the field and also dished out four assists.

January 2, 2010 – Gonzaga beats Illinois in Chicago

Despite playing at home just 36 hours prior, Gonzaga was able to hold off Illinois 85-83 in overtime from the United Center in Chicago. Elias Harris hit the winner with 12 seconds to go. This game is also notable for Robert Sacre’s first career 3-pointer. It’s also notable because Gonzaga won twice in 36 hours in two time zones.

January 2, 2011 – Gonzaga wins at Wake Forest

It happened again! After beating Oklahoma State in Spokane on New Year’s Eve, Gonzaga took a morning flight on January 1 before playing the morning of January 2, which means they played twice in 37 hours on opposite coasts. Mark Few apologized to his team for the scheduling gaff. No worries, though, as Steven Gray poured in 18 points to lead the Zags to a 73-63 victory over Wake Forest.

January 2, 2016 – Gonzaga’s furious Hilltop comeback

To this day, I still have no idea how Gonzaga won this game. The Hilltop has seemingly always been a house of horrors for the Zags. In this one, the Dons led by 15 with 7:45 remaining and held a 10-point lead with 3:00 to go. All of a sudden, Gonzaga scored 13 straight points and ended up winning the game in overtime. Domantas Sabonis poured in 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Kyle Wiltjer added 30 of his own. This game was the creation of the Sabonis chest pounding .gif (2:25 of the video).

January 3, 2007 – Gonzaga gets beat up by Virginia

Virginia got a school-record 18 three pointers and a career-high 37 points from Sean Singletary to beat Gonzaga 108-87. Those 108 points remain the most Gonzaga has ever given up in regulation under Mark Few. Pretty stark contrast to today’s Virginia teams, wouldn’t you say?

January 5, 2017 – The Nigel Williams-Goss Flu Game

Nigel Williams-Goss spent most of the week in bed sick with what Mark Few called “a flu as bad as we’ve had that we can remember.” He showed up on Thursday and had one of the best games of his collegiate career. Goss scored 36 points on a remarkably efficient 12-of-15 shooting and added 11 rebounds and six assists. He turned the ball over just once.


Honorable mentions: I tried so hard to find a video online of the Casey Calvary dunk that shattered the backboard on January 2, 2001 but I came up empty. Instead, enjoy this video from New Year’s Eve when an Oklahoma player did the same thing at Spokane Arena.