Harris Keys Fast Charging Zags In Battle Over Arizona
SEATTLE (AP) - Elias Harris and Gonzaga started fast and never let Arizona catch up ... barely.
Harris scored 12 of Gonzaga's first 19 points during a suffocating opening run, and the Bulldogs needed all of their early advantage to hold on in the final minutes for a 71-60 win over the Wildcats on Saturday at Seattle's KeyArena in the 9th annual State Farm Battle in Seattle.
"Elias has had some good ones for us in his career, but this was definitely one of his better ones. He played really, really well on the defensive end. We were worried about their forwards attacking us off the dribble and he did a real good job there," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. "He rebounded and really attacked the basket like he's capable of and like we want him to."
Making their annual trip across the mountains to play before its large fan base in the Seattle area, Gonzaga (7-2) scored the first 14 points, held Arizona scoreless for more than five minutes, then held off Arizona's second-half rally in front of a crowd of 15,127.
Harris made six of his first seven shots and his 3-pointer in the closing seconds gave him 17 for the first half, nearly outscoring the Wildcats by himself as Gonzaga led 39-21. He finished with a season-high 25 points.
The fast start forced Arizona head coach Sean Miller to call two timeouts in the first 5:19, the second with the Bulldogs up 14-0 following a Harris basket. The lead grew to as many as 19 points in the first half at 34-15 with 3:18 remaining. Harris' basket to start the second half gave the Zags a game-high 20point lead at 41-21 less than a minute into the final half.
The Wildcats closed the gap to 10 with 7:53 to play as Arizona went on an 8-0 run as 3-pointers by Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry, followed by a Parry layin did the damage.
Gonzaga got the lead back to 13 points at 60-47 with an even 4:00 to play. Jordin Mayes connected on a trey and a jumper and Solomon Hill converted a pair of free throws and suddenly the Wildcats were within six at 60-54 with just under three minutes to play.
Robert Sacre stopped the bleeding with a dunk and following a Nick Johnston jumper Pangos went to the line and sank a pair of free throws for a 64-56 lead with 1:40 left, his first of four free throws in the final 1:40. Sacre had two more throws as Gonzaga, which went 20-for-32 from the line in the game, went 6-for-6 in the crucial sretch run to hold off the Wildcats.
The game ended a tough stretch which saw them play at Illinois, host Michigan State, host Oral Roberts and then have just one day to prepare for Arizona.
"I just told them this might be as tough of a week as we've had in quite awhile," Few said. "We played Michigan State in a hard-fought emotional game, played a team that nobody knew anything about except us and were unelieveably well-caoched in Oral Roberts and a really physical grinder game and then have short prep and come over here and play a very good Arizona team."
The Bulldogs, who had committed 53 turnovers in their last three games, had a season-low six against the Wildcats leading to just 12 Arizona points. It was the fewest turnovers the Bulldogs have had since committing four in a win over USC Upstate in 2009.
"That was another big thing. Where we've been having issues is a silly barrage of silly turnovers. They did a fabulous job, especially against Arizona's pressure, they really kind of ratcheted it up in the second half," Few said.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Bulldogs who host Butler University Tuesday in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Butler picked up a big win Saturday at Purdue.
"I just told the guys we have a team that has been a shot away from a national championship and 40 minutes away from a national championship coming in in a couple of days. That will be another difficult task."