No. 7 Gonzaga Downs San Francisco, 70-54
Feb 22, 2002
By RICK EYMER
SAN FRANCISCO - Cory Violette and his Gonzaga teammates knew what to do with a big lead in front of a large, hostile crowd. They just kept playing.
Violette scored 18 points as the No. 7 Bulldogs celebrated their highest ranking ever with a 70-54 victory over San Francisco on Friday night.
Dan Dickau added 17 as Gonzaga (25-3, 12-1 West Coast Conference) won its 10th straight, and 22nd in 23 games overall.
"We've been playing in front of these kinds of crowds all season," said Violette, who also had a team-high nine rebounds. "We played at New Mexico earlier in the season and won in overtime. After that, we're ready for anything."
Shamell Stallworth scored 17 points to lead the Dons (12-14, 7-6), who lost their third straight despite playing before their first sellout crowd in three years. San Francisco, which shot just over 26 percent from the field, had won five of its last six home games.
Darrell Tucker recorded his 16th double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Gonzaga, which has been ranked a school-record 11 consecutive weeks, is off to its best start ever in its 44 years as a Division I member.
"It's very significant for the coaching staff and players," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "It's a good position to be in. To be able to do that week after week is quite a testament to the character of these kids."
The Bulldogs, one of just three teams to reach the NCAA Sweet 16 in each of the past three years, are the highest ranked team to play at USF since the Dons were ranked No. 6 in December 1981.
"That's a good team. There's a reason they're ranked seventh in the nation," San Francisco coach Phil Mathews said. "Dickau hits a 25-footer that puts a dagger in your heart and then he does it three more times."
Gonzaga, with one game remaining in the regular season, still needs to win at St. Mary's on Saturday to clinch at least a share of the WCC title.
The Dons were without senior guard LyRyan Russell, out for the year with a torn left ACL, for the third straight game.
"We're out of synch," Mathews said. "When you lose the guy who runs your team, you have to compensate."
After allowing a season-high 93 points to the Bulldogs they last time they played, USF held Gonzaga 11 points under its average.
"Phil defends our team better than anyone," Few said. "They just missed some shots they normally make."
Alex Hernandez hit a pair of free throws with 14:20 remaining to highlight an 8-0 run for the Bulldogs, who opened a 45-26 lead.
San Francisco responded with a 12-2 run of its own to climb within 47-38 three minutes later. John Cox, whose cousin is Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to single digits for the first time since early in the game.
The Dons were still within nine with 4:22 left before Gonzaga began pulling away.
Gonzaga took much of the drama out of it by scoring the first 16 points. The Dons missed their first 15 shots - several within 3 feet of the basket - to fall behind.
"It was odd, but we were flying around pretty good on defense," Dickau said. "We were forcing them to take some tough shots and they didn't hit the good looks they got."
There were four timeouts called before Cox, who had 11 points, finally hit an inside jumper with 9:56 remaining to play in the half putting San Francisco on the scoreboard.
"I called a timeout when it was 11-0 and asked the guys if we were going to score," Mathews said. "They assured me they would. When it was 16-0, I asked if they were sure."
The Dons were able to pull within 30-19 late in the half, but Alex Bankhead hit a jumper at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 33-19 lead at the intermission.
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