Bulldogs Rally Past Montana, 75-67

Dec. 5, 2002

Box Score

MISSOULA, Mont. - Blake Stepp scored 22 points and had nine assists and Kyle Bankhead hit three crucial 3-pointers as Gonzaga University rallied from an 11-point deficit midway through the second half to beat the University of Montana 75-67 Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena.

With the Grizzlies building the 11-point lead on the strength of redshirt freshman guard Kevin Criswell's 29 points and Steve Horne's 18, Montana started running down the clock and did not get a shot attempt on five straight possessions. Criswell's steal and layin gave the home team a 61-50 lead with 10:38 to play in front of a boisterous crowd 5,254.

But Bankhead ignited the comeback with back-to-back treys from the right top of the circle within a span of 52 seconds, and after Cory Violette was blocked on a slam dunk and recovered the ball for a put back slam with 7:12 top play the Bulldogs had cut the deficit to 61-58 in less than three minutes.

Ronny Turiaf hit the back end of a two-shot free throw, Montana's Ryan Pederson countered with a 3-pointer from the left corner to a 64-59 Griz lead, Turiaf got his own rebound and Violette got a layin on a drive-and-dish from Stepp to pull the Bulldogs' within one at 64-63 with 4:54 remaining. Bankhead gave the Bulldogs the lead - just their fifth lead of the game and first since 37-36 with :59 to go in the first half - with his final 3-pointer from the left wing with 3:57 to go.

Victor Venters missed two free throws for Montana with 2:18 to play, and the Bulldogs converted 6-of-6 from the free throw line down the stretch to build a 75-64 lead. Derrick Mansell's 3-pointer with 26 seconds to go ended the scoring and the Grizzlies let the Bulldogs dribble away the waning seconds.

 

 

"For 30 minutes we were flabbergasted," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. "I hated to see us playing so fragile. But we had a core group of players - Winston (Brooks), Blake, Cory, Ronny and Kyle - who wanted to compete. Bankhead was huge. He had not been shooting it great this season. Winston hung with it. We held them to just 27 points in the second half."

Few said the game plan was to "play 15 seconds of tough defense and force Montana into some tough decisions. But we had some silly turnovers and we were on the road for the first time. Some of these guys were playing the first true road game of their career," Few said.

Both teams scored 22 points off 17 miscues, but the Grizzlies definitely had the easier time of scoring off the turnover.

"I can't tell you how many times they stole the ball and went in for an easy layin," Few said of several easy Griz baskets.

Gonzaga, ranked 25th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25 this week while dropping out of the Associated Press rankings, led by as much as 21-11 with 12:28 to go in the first half. But Criswell came off the bench to score 21 first-half points and spark the Grizzlies to a 40-37 halftime lead. Criswell also led Montana with eight rebounds and four steals. He finished 10-of-20 from the field, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range.

"Criswell is a heck of a player. He can dribble the ball at you and create pressure, plus he strokes it. He had an out-of-body experience and we weathered that. Horne was as good tonight as we've ever seen him," Few said of the only two Grizzlies in double figures.

Horne, a junior college transfer, went 6-for-7 from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc for his 18 points.

Violette finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double of the season and the 13th of his career. Turiaf also grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds, one shy of his career high last season against Montana.

Gonzaga finishes a tough three-game week Saturday at 7 p.m. at Washington State University. There will be no television of the Cougar game, but it can be heard on 1510 KGA radio and on the Internet.

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