One week after putting together a dominant homestand against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s, the Gonzaga Bulldogs successfully completed an uninspiring road swing through southern California with a 79-67 win over the San Diego Toreros that felt much closer than the scoreline indicated.
Four Zags scored in double figures, led by Rui Hachimura who had a game high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Perkins narrowly missed out on a double-double of his own, finishing with 15 points and 9 assists. Zach Norvell had 18 points, while Brandon Clarke added 14 points and 8 rebounds despite battling foul trouble all evening. Isaiah Pineiro scored 20 points for the Torerosm, while Olin Carter added 14.
Gonzaga had a close call at the Slim Gym a year ago before narrowly escaping with a 77-72 win, and the 2019 edition of that matchup appeared to be following the same blueprint.
The opening minutes of the game weren’t pretty, but an early 15-7 lead made it seem as if the Zags were going to successfully avoid the sluggish start that plagued them at LMU on Thursday night. A blowout wasn’t in the cards, however, as the Toreros dialed in to their defensive game plan and effectively grounded Gonzaga’s high flying offense for the remainder of the first half. Gonzaga’s transition game never really got out of first gear, and instead we saw the nation’s top offense plodding through its halfcourt offense without much purpose. Credit should certainly go to San Diego for bottling up the Zags, and the events of the game weren’t too surprising considering how well USD played in Spokane a few weeks ago.
San Diego’s Olin Carter missed that first game in Spokane, but made up for lost time by scoring 12 of San Diego’s 30 points in the first half, which made up for minimal production from Piniero who was saddled with foul trouble. With things all square at 30-30 during the break, the manner in which Gonzaga opened the second half was going to dictate how the remainder of the game would play out.
Fortunately, for Gonzaga fans, the Bulldogs emerged from the locker room with much better energy and it translated into better production on the floor. Perkins orchestrated Gonzaga’s halfcourt offense with aplomb, slipping passes effortlessly to Rui the post which helped get him going after a slow first half.
Gonzaga built a double-digit lead on a handful of occasions, but to their credit (again), the Toreros refused to lay down. Pineiro made up for his no-show in the first half with 18 points after the break. Some untimely defensive breakdowns from Gonzaga allowed a couple of wide open USD threes to cut the lead back down to single digits, and then a sloppy final four minutes from the Zags gave the Toreros far too much life.
Mark Few won’t be happy with the late game execution when he plays back the tape from this game, but the Zags did manage to extend their 30-game road winning streak in conference play and stay in position to pick up a 1-seed for the NCAA Tournament. In order for that to remain the case when Selection Sunday rolls around, Gonzaga will need more of what we saw last weekend in The Kennel and less of what was on display in southern California.