Nothing seemed to be working and the Zags found themselves inexplicably tied, at home, with a Montana Grizzlies team not even picked to win the Big Sky.
Then Domantas Sabonis led a fastbreak, brought the ball up into the frontcourt and fed a cutting Josh Perkins for a lay-up. That's not how it's supposed to go, the center running the floor and dishing an assist to the point guard in the paint, but that play perfectly encapsulates not just this game but this season for the Zags.
With Przemek Karnowski out it was once again the Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer show for Gonzaga. Both bigs finished with 16 points. After a lackadaisical outing against Arizona from the Gonzaga guards it seemed as if the trio of Eric McClellan, Josh Perkins and Kyle Dranginis were going to cancel that out by playing out-of-control aggressive against Montana.
Like I said, nothing was working. Especially not out of control play. After countless fastbreaks that came up short — one on three, showboating, charges, etc — that Sabonis led break with 11:47 to play in the game was Gonzaga's first successful break of the night.
Credit the Grizzlies, a team that already boasts a quality win over Boise State on their resume, for coming into the Kennell with a defensive plan and sticking to it. They wanted to make the Gonzaga guards beat them. Relentless doubling of Sabonis and Wiltjer in the first half left plenty of room on the perimeter. The plan was working.
Mark Few sent Bryan Alberts in immediately after Perkins slowed down and blew a lay-up in a fastbreak. Alberts hadn't played more than five minutes a game over the previous four.
Shortly there after, clearly looking for anything, Few sent Dustin Triano into the game. Triano had totaled eight mintues this season, half of which came in garbage time of a 39 point blowout win over Northern Arizona. Yet here he was, in the middle of the first half of a game in which his team held just a three point lead.
Nothing was working for the Zags.
Montana, on the back of Martin Breunig (20 points), came out of the break and ran off a 12-0 run to take a four point lead. The 6-foot-8 senior forced Domantas Sabonis into foul trouble as he went to work in the paint.
The Grizzlies scored 35 second half. Breunig was responsible for 18 of them.
Brandon Gfeller, who played high school ball just an hour south of Spokane in Colfax, Wash., pitched in with two second half threes that kept the heat on the program that passed him over. His first came with just under three minutes to play and made it a one point game. His second, and biggest, came with 1:07 to play when he drilled a wide open three from straight away. He was left open because of a beautiful screen from Jack Lopez. Kyle Dranginis tried to fight through the screen, but pretty much just ran Lopez over. Gfeller's three tied it up, and Lopez connected on both free throws to complete a five point play that gave Montana a lead with a minute to play.
His heroics ended there, however, as he missed a wide open albeit deep three with seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime.