No. 2 Gonzaga holds off USF 83-79 in furious WCC finish
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Mark Few had to think for a moment back to when his Gonzaga group last got pushed quite like this.
That’s because it’s nearly two months.
Corey Kispert’s three-point play with 1:33 left put his team ahead for good and he then knocked down a jumper with 34 seconds remaining, leading No. 2 Gonzaga past scrappy San Francisco for a hard-fought 83-79 victory Saturday to extend its winning streak to 15 games.
“Obviously we needed to work on in-game stuff. We hadn’t been in one of those maybe since, I don’t know, the Washington game was kind of close, the Arizona game became close at the end. It wasn’t close,” Few recalled of the back-to-back road games in December. “So, it’s always good to be able to work on that. It’s great to come in at halftime and be down and make adjustments and have those guys go out there and execute those adjustments and kind of turn the tables. They had us reeling there early.”
Khalil Shabaaz made a 3-pointer with six seconds left to make it a two-point game in a furious, back-and-forth finish — and that described most of the second half. Admon Gilder made two free throws with 3.6 seconds left to seal the win.
Filip Petrusev had 23 points and 11 rebounds playing in foul trouble and Drew Timme scored 19 for the Zags (23-1, 9-0 WCC), who ran their West Coast Conference regular-season winning streak to 36 games for the longest such unbeaten run in the nation for a conference.
They had zero room for error at sold-out Memorial Gym, with a capacity crowd of close to 3,000 anxious until the very end. Once the buzzer finally sounded, the relieved Zags stood at mid-court and gave a wave to their loud cast of supporters in the upper bleachers.
Jordan Ratinho scored 14 points to lead a USF squad playing with passion and energy under first-year coach Todd Golden. Untimely turnovers, missed shots and a handful of rebounds going the other way hurt the Dons down the stretch.
“You don’t have to be perfect against these guys but you’ve got to be awfully close,” Golden said. “I thought we played pretty close to perfect the first 20 and just a little above average in the second half.”
The Zags haven’t lost since an 82-64 defeat to Michigan on Nov. 29 in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game played in the Bahamas.
Shabaaz’s layup at the 2:12 mark got USF within 75-74 but he went down hard and briefly left the game. Taavi Jurkatamm made a pair of free throws for the lead at 1:59 before Kispert came through.
“Luckily shots fell and we made one more play than they did down the stretch,” Kispert said. “… That’s what happens in March. The game is tight and it just comes down to who makes one more play at the end of the game. Fortunately today it was us.”
Petrusev missed a pair of free throws with 6:12 left each off the front rim before Remu Raitanen’s 3 moments later and the Zags star missed a close-range shot in the paint at the 4:37 mark before he dunked at 4:07.
Petrusev, coming off a career-high 31 points in a 87-72 win at Santa Clara on Thursday night, shot 8 for 14 and 7 of 12 on free throws in the Bulldogs’ 16th straight road win.
USF (16-8, 5-4) had won its last two games with victories against BYU and San Diego and had won five of six WCC games overall.
Jamaree Bouyea’s baseline jumper at the halftime buzzer extended USF’s lead to 43-35 at the break.
“I thought the first half went about as good as we could have hoped for,” Golden said.
The Dons missed their initial two shots before making four straight. They went 7 of 12 with four 3-pointers to build a 20-10 lead before the Zags’ 6-0 burst got them closer.
The Zags, the only team in the country with six players averaging double figures in scoring, beat the Dons for the 16th straight time.
This marked Gonzaga’s 37th straight WCC road win.
Gonzaga: The Zags finished 4 for 5 from deep and made 25 of 32 free throws. … Gonzaga is 23-18 all-time in San Francisco, going 8-3 in the last 11 meetings. … They held a 38-32 rebounding advantage.
San Francisco: USF hasn’t beaten the Zags since a 66-65 victory in San Francisco on Feb. 18, 2012. … The Dons had outrebounded their previous three opponents. They crashed the offensive glass early to create extra opportunities. … USF dropped to 11-4 at home. … It was another tough day on 3-point shooting with the Dons going 7 for 28. USF was 4 of 16 on 3s in a 69-44 win Thursday over San Diego and also overcame shooting 8 for 25 in the first half — 32% — by making 17 of 31 shots after halftime.
Gonzaga: Hosts Loyola Marymount on Thursday night.
San Francisco: Hosts Pacific on Thursday night.
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