Bulldogs Slam San Francisco
Jan 15, 2004
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
SPOKANE, Wash. - When Blake Stepp's first two shots went in, the Gonzaga point guard figured he might as well keep shooting.
"Maybe the next five will go in," Stepp said. "You shoot until you miss."
Stepp did not miss in the first half, making all nine of his field goal attempts and No. 16 Gonzaga went on to crush San Francisco 92-50 on Thursday night.
Five of his baskets were 3-pointers as Stepp scored all 23 of his points in the first half as Gonzaga took a 55-16 lead.
With leading scorer Ronny Turiaf slowed by a cold and a wrist injury, Stepp went into the game figuring he needed to boost his scoring.
"It feels great. It doesn't happen very often," Stepp, who sat out most of the second half and finished 9-of-11 from the field, said of his scoring binge.
Gonzaga (13-2, 3-0 West Coast Conference) used a 33-2 run at the end of the first half to coast to its sixth straight win.
San Francisco (10-8, 0-2) was 6-of-23 from the field (26 percent) in the first half. It was the Dons' 15th consecutive loss at Gonzaga, and their most lopsided loss ever in the series.
San Francisco Coach Phil Mathews said the Dons had no answer for Stepp.
"We boxed him. We chested him. Nothing worked," Mathews said. "He's the best player in the conference.
"We had a guy right in his face and he still hit them," Mathews said. "He knocked down impossible shots."
Gonzaga leads the WCC in scoring with an average of 83 points per game, so coach Mark Few was more excited about his team's defense.
"The best thing they did in the first half was defend," Few said.
Even against Gonzaga's substitutes, San Francisco finished the game shooting only 29.8 percent from the field and the Dons committed 17 turnovers.
Freshman Adam Morrison added 15 points for Gonzaga, while Cory Violette had 14 and Sean Mallon 12.
Gonzaga shot 71 percent in the first half (22-of-31), including 9-of-11 3-pointers, and 60 percent for the game (36-of-60).
"I imagine it felt like it looked, real good," Violette said of the first-half performance.
"It's fun to watch your team go off," Morrison added.
San Francisco picked up three charging fouls in the opening minutes, and committed numerous turnovers and defensive breakdowns that led to a 22-14 Gonzaga lead with 9 minutes left. And then things got worse for the Dons.
Gonzaga went on a 17-0 run over the next 6 minutes for a 39-14 lead.
After James Bayless' dunk for San Francisco with 3:37 left, Gonzaga scored the final 16 points of the half. Stepp hit four 3-pointers in the runs, while Violette had two.
Bayless led the Dons with nine points.
Stepp, a senior and returning WCC player of the year, moved into 10th place on the Gonzaga career scoring list with 1,431 points.
Gonzaga held Portland State to only 17 first-half points last season and Saint Mary's to 17 in 2002.
"That was about as good a half as we played all year," Few said. "It was great to have all of them on at the same time."
The 42-point margin of victory eclipsed the old record of 39 points, when Gonzaga beat the Dons 106-67 in 1995. They hit 22 3-pointers in that game.
Gonzaga's only losses this year have been to Saint Joseph's and Stanford, two of the last four unbeaten teams in Division I.
"They would have beat anybody in the country tonight the way they shot the ball," Mathews said.
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