Dower Scores 24, Zags Take Advantage Of Free Throws In Win
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Sam Dower Jr. scored 24 points and Gonzaga made 11 of 12 free throws in the final 1:31 to hold off San Francisco 75-65 Saturday night at War Memorial Gymnasium.
The win gave the West Coast Conference-leading Bulldogs (20-3, 10-1) some breathing room between themselves and the second place Dons, whom Gonzaga beat 69-41 during the first round of conference play on Dec. 30. With Saint Mary’s falling to BYU, the Bulldogs are now at least three up on everybody in the loss column.
Gary Bell Jr. finished with 13 points for the Zags, who shot just 38.8 percent for the game. They came into the contest shooting 51.1 percent from the field, 2nd in the nation. Przemek Karnowski added 12 points and eight rebounds.
But while the Bulldogs may not have been quite as efficient from the field as they have been, the Zags were deadly from the free throw line, connecting on 34-of-41 attempts, both season-highs. Dower was 12-for-13 after making his first 10.
Head coach Mark Few said it was forward at the line for the Zags.
“A lot of that was they fouled so much down the stretch, but they fouled guys who they thought were the right guys. David (Stockton) stepped up and made huge free throw after free throw, Przemek shot well and Sam is a good free throw shooter. We want him to get fouled,” Few said.
Karnowski suffered a cut under his right eye in a collision with teammate Kyle Dranginis mid-way through the first half. The cut was glued, but Karnowski made repeated trips to the bench as blood was oozing through the bandage. The cut was stitched following the game.
USF got off to a 5-0 lead and had the crowd into the game, but Gonzaga quickly responded with a 13-0 run. The Bulldogs enjoyed their biggest lead of the first half at 29-20 with 2:36 to go. The Dons responded with a bucket by Tim Derksen and a pair of treys by Mark Tollefsen and Arvy Holmes sandwiched around a Pangos three as the Zags held the 32-28 lead at the half.
The Bulldogs did a good job defensively on the USF big men, holding Tollefsen and Cole Dickerson to a combined 7-of-16 from the field.
“We knew we had to try something so we were trying to mix up our coverages; it helped limiting them and not letting them go 1-on-1 against our guys,” Few said. “We doubled a lot because they came in on a roll. They’ve been so effective this last month. We didn’t want to give Holmes that many looks (5-for-13) but those were just kind of mental breakdowns.”
USF cut the lead to 34-33 early in the second half, but the Bulldogs used a 20-7 run, during which Dower scored nine points, to open up a 54-40 lead with 9:17 to play. Holmes, who finished with 18 points, pulled San Francisco (14-9, 7-4) within 63-57 with just more than 2 minutes remaining but the Dons would get no closer.
Few also liked what he say form Bell and Dranginis.
“Gary stepped up and I thought Dranginis was unbelievable with 12 rebounds. Karnowski was really good today. When he was in there he really went to work and made his free throws. When we get Gary going – and sometimes he’s reluctant to pull that trigger early - but he hit some big ones again today,” said Few, who reached the 20-win plateau for the 15th straight season as he has never had a team not win at least 20 games.
The Bulldogs return home Wednesday to face the University of Portland, then head to the University of Memphis for a non-conference encounter with the 22nd ranked Tigers next Saturday for ESPN College Game Day.