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Three point shooting guides Gonzaga in win over Xavier

It wasn’t pretty at times....or most of the time.

Phil Knight Legacy Tournament : Purdue v Gonzaga Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Julian Strawther had two huge three-point shots to help guide the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a hard-fought contest over the Xavier Musketeers, 84-88.

The Zags jumped out early, looking pretty consistent on both sides of the ball and it really looked like the ass kicking from Friday was stewing in everyone’s mind. It helped quite a bit that Xavier opened up the game brutally cold, missing plenty of open bunnies right at the hoop.

A few Zag turnovers let Xavier get back into the game, and the Musketeers went on an 11-3 run to bring the Musketeers within three near the end of first half. However, Ben Gregg had other things in mind, rolling off a high screen and hitting a very deep three to give Gonzaga a 40-34 lead going into halftime.

It was an uncharacteristically rough first half for Drew Timme. Through the first 20, he hit just 2-of-7 from the floor, missed a couple of free throws, and had four turnovers. Luckily, for Gonzaga, Anton Watson more than made up for it. Watson had 10 points and six rebounds (including a couple on the very rare isolation play).

Meanwhile, for Xavier, the shots weren’t exactly falling but they didn’t turn the ball over too much, nor get whistled for a single foul in what seemed like forever (but was just 12 minutes). Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge were handfuls down low, finishing with 19 of Xavier’s 34 first half points.

Then the second half happened. The opening lead was always bit suspect since Xavier missed so many open looks, but a combination of Gonzaga turnovers, plus a ebbing of defensive pressure allowed Xavier back into the game. The Musketeers went on a 25-7 run to take a 71-63 lead with six minutes left.

But then a three by Rasir Bolton, followed by a three by Hickman, Drew Timme free throws, and a couple of turnovers between brought the Zags right back from the point it looked like the Musketeers were going to run away with the game. Julian Strawther hit two huge (and deep) threes to give the Zags a 81-75 lead and Gonzaga was able to hold on for the win.

That was an equally parts admirable and frustrating second half for Gonzaga. The Zags plowed through a very rough offensive stretch and never let Xavier get too far away. They absorbed the punch and fired back with an even harder hit in the closing minutes.

However, the defense was, yet again, absolute garbage. Xavier shot 60 percent from the floor. Souley Boum and Nunge came alive. The Zags just didn’t seem to have much of an idea on how to stop Xavier. It has been a recurring theme so far this season. If the Zags want to win more games, they’ll need to figure that out, especially with Baylor looming on Friday.