I won’t care if some people don’t like me for saying this but I was embarrassed to be a Gonzaga alum and fan on Saturday night. The Kennel made the University, Mark Few, and this team that works so hard every day look foolish. I feel ashamed when my friends and co-workers come up to me to talk about what transpired in that key West Coast Conference matchup. It hurt my heart to have witness, I’m serious. The Zags (16-6, 7-2) are now two games behind the Gaels (18-6, 9-0 and have won 10 games in a row) and in a two-way tie for second place with USF.
WATCH: Here is the moment when Gonzaga fans started throwing stuff on the floor after being upset with the officiating. The players and arena PA announcer were trying to tell them to stop. @kxly4news pic.twitter.com/bgcSx56wZH— Julian Mininsohn (@JMininsohn) February 4, 2024
Yes, of course there were more than a fair amount of questionable calls and one in a particular key moment of the game. That’s going to happen in college basketball, get used to the inconsistency. The ref on that baseline call with Aidan Mahaney (20 points on on 7-17 FG and 4-10 3PT) being clearly out of bounds with his drive on Graham Ike (12 points on 4-10 FG and 4-4 FT, 12 rebounds, 4 personal fouls) which also looked like a kicked ball deserves to be roasted. No doubt about that. Can’t forget the foul on the floor against Anton Watson (16 points on 6-10 FG, 1-1 3PT, and 3-4 FT to go along with 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 4 personal fouls) in the closing seconds which was just as bad. But to completely blame the loss on that, lose your mind as a fanbase and start throwing stuff on the floor cause of it? No, don’t do that. This student body should know better.
This is on the players and the Zags simply got outplayed by the Gaels. It shouldn’t have come to that point in the final minutes. This squad is having a really tough time closing out games against good teams just like Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga doesn’t look like finishers and has major trouble holding onto leads.
Mahaney, now he’s a dawg. The mix of patience and quick maneuvering to find himself at the rim is NBA level stuff. His shooting percentages across the board have taken a dip his sophomore season compared to his coming out party in his freshman campaign but you wouldn’t have believed that after his performance against Gonzaga.
Saint Mary’s is simply loaded. Joshua Jefferson (16 points on 7-14 FG, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) is someone you forget about most of time with Augustas Marciulionis (11 points on 4-9 FG and 2-3 3PT, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) and Mitchell Saxen (15 points on 6-10 FG and 6 rebounds) getting more of the spotlight but he came in to show off his toughness as an individual player. I can’t wait until I get to head down to the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga in the beginning of March as the Zags seek revenge against the Gaels. Going to need someone off the bench in Dusty Stromer (8 minutes played) or Luka Krajnovic (3 minutes played) to hit a shot or two in the regular season finale.
Don’t get me wrong with my negative jib-jabber, Gonzaga still feels like an NCAA Tournament team. Saint Mary’s did, that’s for sure. It’s just strange looking at the roster on paper and thinking this is where we’re at right now. Too much talent and accolades to be here at this point in the season.
All games are must-win for the Zags at this point and a tough road win at #17 Kentucky on Saturday can really change my opinion on how this season has been going in the wrong direction. I don’t like to look ahead on the schedule but that’s been on my radar since the loss at Santa Clara. Need a Quad 1 win so badly with Jon Calipari’s Cats and at Saint Mary’s looking like the only remaining opportunities until possibly in the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Gonzaga first has to host Portland on Wednesday at 5 PM PT on CBS Sports Network. Be careful with your actions, Kennel. Very careful.
Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho