No. 10 Zags Rally Past USD
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO - As flat as Gonzaga started, it was just a matter of time before the 10th-ranked Bulldogs would flatten San Diego.
Cory Violette scored 10 of his 20 points during a 16-4 run to close the first half and Gonzaga rallied from an 11-point deficit to beat the Toreros 85-73 Thursday night.
While faulting their effort in the first half, the Zags said San Diego didn't play anything like a team that had won only three games.
"We did not come with the same passion as they did," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We haven't played like that this year. That's not why we are in the position we're in.
"This group has been remarkably consistent with their effort all year. We were lucky to survive this game tonight."
It was the first time the teams played since San Diego upset Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament championship game here on March 10 to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 seasons.
The Toreros (3-17, 0-5) lost four starters off that team and have been dreadful this season. Thursday night's loss was their ninth straight.
The Toreros played inspired ball in the first half, taking a 32-21 lead with 8:11 left before halftime.
The Zags took over after that, with Violette dominating inside and point guard Blake Stepp making several nice plays. Stepp went flying through the air to intercept a crosscourt pass and fed Violette for a slam dunk that pulled Gonzaga to 34-33 with 3:25 left.
Violette said the Zags finally figured out how to attack USD's zone defense.
"They definitely put it together for stretches tonight," Violette said. "We came out a little bit sluggish. All I know is we can't do it again and expect to go through the league."
After USD's Brice Vounang made two free throws, Violette scored the last four points of the half to give the Zags the lead for good, 37-36.
"Trust me, Gonzaga knew they were in a game," USD coach Brad Holland said. "Our effort was what it needed to be. Our guys played inspired."
Gonzaga's biggest lead was 61-49 with 12:50 to go after a three-point play by Morrison, who scored 16 points in the second half. USD closed to 68-65 with 6:06 left before the Zags pulled away again.
Vounang and Brett Melton scored 22 apiece for San Diego and Brandon Gay had 19.
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