This was not how things were supposed to go. Then again, we all know (and had it demonstrated repeatedly today) that late-season conference road games are never an easy win.
Between Notre Dame needing overtime to beat DePaul, Oregon falling at Cal, Indiana State falling in overtime at Drake, Wichita State going down against Northern Iowa, or even Sacred Heart dropping a road game at Mount Saint Mary's, there was clearly something in the air keeping successful teams from hitting the road to face the lesser lights of their conference and passing with flying colors.
So it should come as little surprise to see Gonzaga barely escape with a win over a San Diego team that's drifting into the middle of the conference with every additional game played.
The Bulldogs were in a groove early as they jumped out to a quick 9-6 lead in the first three minutes on nothing but Elias Harris baskets. That was bookended with a 12-1 run to end the half with the Zags ahead by nine, 36-27.
San Diego's stud guard Chris Anderson kept things interesting by finding open teammates, as his ninth assist of the game helped cut San Diego's deficit to only 46-41 with 14 minutes to play - on what was only Johnny Dee's third made basket of the game.
Anderson's passing kept the ship afloat until Johnny Dee shot his way into a rhythm, and it was great fun to watch. However, it was probably also frustrating for the coaches because it turned into the "Johnny Dee and Nobody Else" Show.
Over the final 12:30 of the game, Dee's teammates combined to shoot 2-for-13 from the field, and the offense essentially devolved into letting Anderson and Dee just run around until they felt open enough to shoot it; and the ending was truly an odd one.
Torero forward Chris Manresa had done a respectable job of keeping Kelly Olynyk in check as the final four minutes approached, but then Olynyk and David Stockton ran the screen and roll on consecutive possessions for consecutive easy lay-ups to make the lead comfortable again.
What happened next truly blew my mind. San Diego fouled Olynyk with eight seconds left on the clock, trailing 65-63. Their only hope was an Olynyk miss, since the Zags were still in one-and-one. And what do you know, Olynyk missed it and the Toreros grabbed the rebound!
However, rather than call their final timeout (I know - I rewound the DVR five times to make sure it was still there) Chris Anderson went weaving downcourt, got trapped in a double team, and dumped the ball off to a double-covered Ken Rancifer instead of Jito Kok, who was wide, wide open under the bucket. Gonzaga escapes with the win.
The Bulldogs will get a nice break with Pepperdine and Loyola coming to their home court before their road rematch with St. Mary's, while the Toreros will likely use that same Loyola squad to air their frustrations before they head home to face BYU and St. Mary's themselves.