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Arizona rallies and steals a 68-63 win at Gonzaga

Gonzaga's backcourt let one get away, at home, and wasted another impressive performance from the stellar frontcourt.

Josh Perkins travelling with the ball against Arizona.
Josh Perkins travelling with the ball against Arizona.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

From Santangelo, Dickau and Stepp through to Stockton and Pangos, Gonzaga fans have been spoiled by excellent point guards. Which makes this season, and today's loss to Arizona, all the more frustrating.

It almost seemed like guards were unnecessary, too. Kyle Wiltjer scored 33 points and Domantas Sabonis added 18. Behind dominating froncourt play the Zags built a double-digit lead in the first half. It was another tale of two halves for the Zags, a disturbing trend this season. Gabe York, 18 points (14 in the second), took over as Arizona capitalized on Gonzaga's second half meltdown and emerged with a five point victory.

How did this meltdown occur? Simply put, the Gonzaga backcourt is terrible right now. The Zags turn the ball over on 21% of possessions this season (21.3% tonight) and have it stolen on 11.3% of possessions. That's good for 327th in the nation, which is not good at all.

Tonight Arizona tallied eight steals.

Redshirt freshman point guard Josh Perkins had five turnovers, often coming on lazy bounce passes. Senior Kyle Dranginis took just one shot, and missed. Senior Eric McClellan scored just two points — though he didn't turn the ball over. Off the bench sophomore Silas Melson missed all three of his shots.

Arizona was without center Kaleb Tarczewski (ankle) and Gonzaga was without center Przemek Karnowski (back), so Wiltjer and Sabonis had no problem doing everything in the early going.

Wiltjer did his damage, as usual, from everywhere while Sabonis dominated in the paint. Gonzaga built an 11 point lead, 26-15, with only those two scoring. It took nearly 15 minutes for a different Zag to score, and that Zag was back-up center Ryan Edwards. The first guard to score was Eric McClellan with 4:18 left in the first, but his bucket came on a basket cut in an out of bounds, under the basket play.

Gonzaga didn't get a run of play bucket from a guard until Josh Perkins hit a lay-up with 2:18 to play in the half.

The second half started in much the same way, with Wiltjer and Sabonis scoring the first few buckets for Gonzaga. But Gabe York brought the Wildcats back into it from long range. York hit four threes over the first seven minutes of the second half, with his fourth tying things up at 50. There were 13 minutes remaining at that point but Gonzaga made just five more field goals.