Unlike in their last game, where Kyle Wiltjer scored a career high 32 points, Gonzaga returned to a balanced offensive attack to push past the Red Storm and move to 6-0 on the season.
Domantas Sabonis (14 points, 10 rebounds) came off the bench to lead the five Zags who reached double figures in scoring. NIT Season Tip-Off MVP Kevin Pangos nearly had a double-double of his own with 11 points and nine assists. Phil Greene led all scorers with 20 points, many of which came as he led the Red Storm nearly all the way back at the end of the game.
The game opened like one between two undefeated teams playing at Madison Square Garden should. The lead was exchanged multiple times over the first half as the teams traded punches trying to find a weakness to exploit. Gonzaga found it first, taking over the game with their size advantage in the paint.
With four minutes remaining in the half Kevin Pangos fed Domantas Sabonis in transition who threw down a one handed jam. Gonzaga took a 27-20 lead and Steve Lavin called a timeout.
Things got even worse for the Johnnies, height wise, coming out of the break.
Just over a minute into the second half Sir'Dominic Pointer was called for his third personal foul (Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski picked up a technical on the same play). Chris Obekpa picked up his third foul on the next possession, ahd his fourth just moments later.
Steve Lavin was forced to play an exceptionally small lineup with 6-foot-6 Sir'Dominic Pointer being the tallest St. John's player on the floor. The Zags ate the little lineup alive. An 8-0 Gonzaga run pushed their lead to 11 points.
St. John's was held scoreless for more than five minutes until Pointer connected on the second of two free throws with 10:48 left in the second. Once St. John's managed to find the bottom of the net again, the Zags started losing control of the game. Gonzaga, which had been drawing fouls and creating takeaways all game, suddenly found itself turning the ball over and getting into foul trouble.
Phil Greene hit a floater over Karnowski with 3:19 to play that pulled the Johnnies within five. That floater capped a 16-6 St. John's run over nearly six minutes. Greene lit it up down the stretch, knocking back-to-back threes over the final two minutes to turn what had been a 15 point game into a one possession affair.
With less than 30 seconds to play St. John's stole the ball from Gary Bell on an inbounds play, knocking it off his knee and out of bounds. The Johnnies' subsequent possession, down three points as the clock wound down, ended when Bell drew a charge on the perimeter.
Kevin Pangos was fouled — Sir'Dominic Pointer threw his leg out to trip him — and knocked down both free throws to all but end the game.
This was Gonzaga's fourth straight win over St. John's. The two teams last met in the 2011 NCAA Tournament round of 64.