The volume at War Memorial Gymnasium at the newly-renovated Sobrato Center is always at its highest when the Zags are in town. Hard to hear the PA announcer from way up to the tippy-top for the media personnel when you’re right behind one of the loudest visiting sections in the West Coast Conference.
On what was supposed to be a memorable night for the University of San Francisco community as they honored the great that was Bill Russell, Gonzaga played the spoilers in the most exciting fashion.
I mean, what an ending. Nobody on the floor wanted that W more than Rasir Bolton (21 points on 8-12 FG, 5-7 3PT) in the crunch time. His effortless energy on the defensive end. Hitting clutch three-pointer after clutch three-pointer. The find to Julian Strawther on the wing after the USF double-team at the top of the key eventually would lead to Anton Watson on the baseline for the hammer (see immediately below). Rasir Bolton is my MVP for tonight.
This was the one, Mark Few. A masterclass of out of a timeout, late-game execution. https://t.co/jPIKfNPC2W— Arden Independence Cravalho (@a_cravalho) January 6, 2023
Rasir Bolton played like Steph Curry in the clutch. Fitting it came in San Francisco. https://t.co/U7cqOlAvkW— Arden Independence Cravalho (@a_cravalho) January 6, 2023
USF, which has been an inconsistent team throughout this season, was very consistently hitting their three-pointers all game tonight (10-23 3PT). The spark on the offensive end that kept the Dons in this one all along? Who else but Khalil Shabazz?
The star guard for San Francisco finished with 17 points (6-15 FG, 4-8 3PT) and a game-high 9 rebounds. He just came up a bit short with Gonzaga’s defensive pressure stifling him in those final seconds. Shabazz couldn’t even get a shot off to either tie or win the game at the end of regulation.
Mark Few mentioned earlier in the week that he was very worried about how the Zags were going to play defensively out on the perimeter against the Dons and rightfully so. It was a bothersome issue for the entire 40 minutes.
Now, for the really bad. It should be worth mentioning that Gonzaga got killed on the glass. Embarrassingly, 45 (!!!) rebounds for the Dons and only 26 for the Zags. Simply no excuse for this but to give props to USF’s big men (Josh Kunen, Zane Meeks, Volodymyr Markovetskyy, Saba Gigiberia). Those four studs, along with Shabazz, took over that part of the game.
To the even worse trouble for the night. Drew Timme struggled mightily from the field. Probably his worst in a Gonzaga uniform (11 points on 3-16 FG). Hey, even the greats are going to have an off-night every once in a while.
It should be worth mentioning that Drew Timme did officially move past Adam Morrison to become Gonzaga’s 3rd all-time leading scorer. Congrats to the big fella. Well deserved.
I’ll try to end this piece on a better note. I’ve spoken on this point all season and will die with this take: Anton Watson is the x-factor for Gonzaga. The reason for the major spark on both sides of the court in this team’s overall effort and energy in the 2nd half. He never seemed to back down with his 14 points on his 6-9 FG, 2-4 3PT. The senior from Spokane needs more love nationally, his work toward’s the success of this program this season shouldn’t go unrecognized.
It doesn’t get any easier for Gonzaga as the Zags have to turn around and head down to Santa Clara on Saturday at 7 PM PT. The Broncos (14-4, 2-1) are arguably the 3rd best team in the WCC led by Brandin Podziemski. That guy’s going to be a PROBLEM but I don’t want to talk about him right now after Gonzaga’s stressful (but rewarding) ending.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho