Former Gonzaga assistant Bill Grier always gets his San Diego Toreros to punch above their weight when they face the Zags. They normally don't win in the end but that doesn't stop them from mucking up what is, against any other opponent, a beautiful offensive attack.
The first half of this game was exactly that. San Diego played above expectations and it was very ugly. Allow me to put journalistic objectivity aside for a moment. The first half of this game was ugly and I don't know why anyone (aside from the USD players and staff who game planned for this) would want to watch that kind of basketball.
It does not deserve a traditional write-up, rather just some appropriately ugly and boring bullet points.
- San Diego is really bad on offense, so the Toreros would need to slow the Zags in order to beat them.
- The Toreros tried to slow the Zags by milking the clock, USD's possessions were on average 23 seconds long.
- Gonzaga shot 8-21 from the field in the half, San Diego was even worse at 6-28.
- While the Toreros did force the Zags into some bad shots, the Zags missed some really good looks.
- At the half Gonzaga held a 22-17 lead.
The second half was a completely different story, and really began a few moments before the end of the first.
The Zags had trailed for most of the game until those easy shots they had been missing started falling. San Diego played a strict, straight man defense without doubling Gonzaga's bigs. It worked for a while, but the Zags' front court is too deep, tough and talented.
A 9-0 Gonzaga run closed the half. All eight of the Zags' points from the field during that run came in the paint, six from Domantas Sabonis and two from Kyle Wiltjer, who also knocked down a free throw.
That run grew to 13-0 once the second half got underway. 12 of those points came in the paint. San Diego's strategy had stopped working. Free throws aside, Gonzaga got 28 straight points in the paint starting with 9:24 remaining in the first half spanning until Gary Bell Jr. drilled a three with 6:06 to play in the second.
During that span the Toreros only scored 23 total points.
Bell's three to prove the Zags were capable of scoring from the outside also pushed the lead to double-digits for just the second time in the game.
A Jito Kok free throw moments later cut the lead back down to 9 points, but Bell answered immediately and the Zags never looked back.
The final ten minutes played out like a game between these two teams should, at least on paper, and Gonzaga turned a close game into a 20 point victory. San Diego's inefficient offense finished as inefficient as it could. The Toreros missed their final five field goals. While Gonzaga, arguably the best offense in the country, hit its final eight field goals.
In the end, Gonzaga faced another tough test from the Toreros but as expected picked up the victory. They've now won 22 straight games and 41 in a row at home. The Zags improve to 29-1 overall and 17-0 in WCC play. San Diego falls to 14-15 (7-10).
One game remains before the WCC Tournament for each team. San Diego travels to Portland on Saturday while Gonzaga hosts BYU.