One year ago on New Year’s Eve, the Gonzaga
Bulldogs came east and ended Saint Joseph’s 14 game home-winning
streak at the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. All-American Dan Dickau
sank a deep three-pointer with a defender draped all over him. It was
a superbly played game decided by the best player on the court.
Visions of revenge must have filled the Hawks’
heads when they arrived in California for the first game of their west
coast swing against Pacific. At 7-0, Saint Joseph’s was on the cusp
of the top 25 by virtue of an impressive rpi ranking and a big road
win at Boston College.
But the Hawks failed miserably down the stretch and
were outscored 12-0 in the final minutes. The 62-50 outcome was a
The same course of action was occurring at the
Kennel, Gonzaga’s home court. A big second-half surge gave the Hawks
their largest lead of the game, 69-59 with over five minutes
remaining. Three and ˝ minutes later, Ronny Turiaf sank both free
throws to complete a 10-0 run by the Zags. The game was tied,
But Saint Joseph’s Jameer Nelson wasn’t about to
let that happen again. The gritty point guard drilled a
three-pointer, his 28th point of the game. When Blake
Stepp converted one of two free throws to cut the lead to 72-70,
Nelson took it upon himself to decide the game. But he was whistled
for an offensive foul while pulling up for a shot in the lane. Cory
Violette made both free throws (the 38th and 39th
attempt for the Zags) to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Jameer Nelson was not going to be denied. The
junior floor leader scored 6 of his career-high 34 points in overtime,
including the game-winning pull-up basket in the lane with only 8
seconds remaining. The 79-78 OT victory snapped Gonzaga’s 29 game
home-winning streak, the 3rd longest in the nation. It was
the first loss at the Kennel by a non-conference foe since 1996.
Jameer Nelson is a big-time player. The 2-time
Atlantic-10 player of the week played 43 out of a possible 45
minutes. His stat sheet line read like this: 34 points on 14-for-26
shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 1 huge heart.
Gonzaga built an early lead from the onset of the
game. They took advantage of freshman Dave Mallon and fed the post
time and time again. When they didn’t draw the foul or score on their
first effort, Gonzaga would grab every offensive rebound and convert
on the second-chance. The Zags out rebounded the Hawks 9-1 en route
to an early 17-7 lead.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few also installed a unique
to strategy to combat the Hawk’s fierce defense. By using an up-tempo
offense, the Zags were able to score some easy buckets because the
Hawks never had time to settle into their aggressive half-court
Trailing 19-11, the Hawks went on an 11-0 run to
take the lead, 22-19. Delonte West sank a three, John Bryant (a 31.6
% FT shooter) actually made both free throws, freshman Dwayne Lee also
made two free throws, and Nelson scored 4 straight points, including
the 1000th point of his career.
The Bulldogs pounded the post again and again and
retook the lead, 31-29. Pat Carroll made back-to-back three-pointers,
spurring the Hawks on to a 35-31 advantage. The Zags scored the final
four points of the half, and the score was knotted at 35-35.
For Gonzaga, their frontcourt of Zach Gourde, Cory
Violette, and Rich Fox accounted for 28 of the team’s 35 points. For
Saint Joseph’s, just the opposite. The backcourt combined for 28 of
their 35 points. Gonzaga had a major edge at the charity stripe,
outscoring the Hawks by 8 on 11 more attempts.
Nelson scored 8 of the Hawks first 12 points in the
second stanza to keep the game close, 48-47 Gonzaga. His three-point
play gave the Hawks their largest lead, 69-59 with 5 minutes
Gonzaga erupted for 8 straight points in under a
minute to trim the lead, 69-67.
In the overtime, Blake Stepp hit a three-pointer to
give the Zags the first lead, 75-72. Dwayne Jones converted 1-of-2
free throws to cut the lead to two points. When Jones fouled out and
the Zags sank one free throw to go ahead 76-73, the momentum clearly
was on Gonzaga’s side.
But Nelson’s 30th point of the game kept
the Hawks in the thick of it. Another Nelson bucket gave the Hawks
their first lead of the overtime, 77-76 with 0:34 on the clock. But
Rich Fox corralled an offensive rebound and layed the ball in the
Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli decided not
to use his last timeout. He put the game on the shoulders of his
leader, Nelson. Nelson took it strong and converted with only 8
seconds to go. Gonzaga missed the last shot of the game.
Saint Joseph’s shot 17-for-32 (53 % FG) in the
second half. The Hawks rebounded from their 6-for-18 FT performance
against Pacific, connecting on 13-of-18 (72 % FT). Delonte West added
15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Tyrone Barley had 4 points, 5
rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Alex Sazonov finally emerged with
6 key points in 22 minutes.
Cory Violette led Gonzaga with 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Rich Fox and Blake Stepp each had 15 points. An injured Ronny Turiaf
was limited to 6 points while Winston Brooks was held scoreless.
Just like last year, it was a superbly played game
decided by the best player on the court. That player this year was
Saint Joseph’s opens the Atlantic-10 season at home
on Sunday, January 5th at 4:00pm. They host Duquesne.
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