Gonzaga trailed throughout tonight's game against Santa Clara but made enough plays at the end to prevail...barely, by a score of 77-75. The Broncos held a six point lead at halftime at the Orleans Arena and kept that lead all the way until the five minute mark of the second half. The Zags held the deficit close throughout, however, but were never able to really break through until David Stockton hit a layup to take a 64-63 lead. From that point, the game was completely back and forth but it was Stockton and Sam Dower that would eventually lead the Bulldogs past the Broncos in a way too close quarterfinal matchup.
Throughout the first half and for a good part of the second half, there was no doubting that Santa Clara was in control of the game. Not only did they hold the advantage on the scoreboard, but they were also the aggressor on both ends of the court. Gonzaga was on their heels and allowed the Broncos to set the tone, particularly on the defensive end. On the offensive end for the Broncos, it was Jared Brownridge who starred. The freshman guard who has taken this conference by storm absolutely laid it on the Zags. Brownridge finished with 24 points on 8-14 shooting from the floor. He channeled his inner Kevin Foster with a 4-7 shooting performance from deep.
Mark Few operated with an extremely tight rotation tonight as just eight Zags logged minutes. Some of the heroes from games past, Ryan Edwards and Drew Barham most notably, did not make an impact on this game. Few elected to let his starters win this game and senior leader Sam Dower was the main one to put this team on his back. Dower had a big night and, although he went just 4-10 from the floor, he connected on all 15 of his free throws and finished the game with 23 points. His frontcourt mate, Przemek Karnowski, finished with 16 points and an amazing 12 rebounds.
If you had read any national publication before this game, the rhetoric was "once Gonzaga wins this game, they will be a lock in the NCAA Tournament". With that assumption in mind, this a major "phew" win but, at the same time, it is a win that is so underwhelming when you consider how incredible this team looked against Saint Mary's. Tonight, Gonzaga turned the ball over an incredulous 16 times and allowed the Broncos to drain 7 threes. On the other side, Kevin Pangos was the only Bulldog to hit from deep but Gary Bell and David Stockton produced in other ways.
This is definitely one of those games that will take some time to fully digest but, in the least, Gonzaga will advance to the semifinals.