The Pacific Tigers gave the Gonzaga Bulldogs everything they wanted, but it wasn’t quite enough for the hosts as the Zags made just enough plays to rebound from Thursday night’s loss with a 99-90 win.
Drew Timme played like the superstar he is and finished the evening with a new career high 38 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. His frontcourt running mate Anton Watson was equally big with 16 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Rasir Bolton (16 points) and Julian Strawther (15 points) rounded out the double-figure scoring for Gonzaga.
If you were expecting the Zags to come out and play inspired basketball and blow the Tigers away to salve the wounds of Thursday’s loss to LMU, well, that’s not what happened. Not even close.
The issues that we’ve seen Gonzaga struggle with over the last three weeks, particularly at the defensive end of the floor, were front and center once again.
Pacific hit a handful of tough contested shots, sure, but for the most part the Tigers were able to work the Gonzaga defense and consistently got into the paint with ease via dribble-penetration and kick out to an open shooter or convert at the rim without too much resistance. The Tigers capitalized on the open looks too, shooting 8-12 from the three-point line in the first half and matching Gonzaga shot for shot through the first 20 minutes to ensure the game stayed a level draw at 47 by the halfway point.
As you can infer, the Zags also scored 47 points in the first half, but those points didn’t seem to come as easily as they did for Pacific (I know how shocking that sentence reads, and I stand by it). Gonzaga’s three-point shooting continues to stay on ice, and I won’t get into what happened at the free throw line because winter is depressing enough.
In the second half, the Zags showed what they can (and should) be. Timme fed Watson for an easy dunk to open the half and they were off from there as Timme scored Gonzaga’s next 12 points to power a 14-2 run in the first four minutes of the half. Pacific found dribble penetration a little more difficult to come by in those opening minutes, and thus found it more difficult to break down Gonzaga’s defense, while the outside shooting went cold (1-8 in the second half).
Alas, just when it looked like Gonzaga was going to leave the Tigers in the dust, Pacific’s Cam Denson put together a personal 6-0 run over a 42 second stretch to arrest the visitors’ momentum. The Zags found themselves in a dogfight from there. Timme put together an unbelievable half of offensive basketball (26 points in the second half) to keep pace with a Pacific offense that was having its way with Gonzaga’s “defense” (term used very loosely).
Watson didn’t leave the entire burden to Timme, as he chipped in on a number of possessions down the stretch as a scorer, rebounder, and defender to help close this game out. A few buckets from Bolton and Strawther put the game out of reach.
While Gonzaga fought its way back into the win column, this performance didn’t do much to alleviate the concerns that have been building through the last three weeks of conference play. Major defensive strides will be needed for Gonzaga to separate itself from the rest of the conference.