After three lopsided home wins, Gonzaga survived after taking a step up in competition in the Great Alaska Shootout.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs look to advance to the championship game of the tournament as they meet Texas Tech on Friday.
Gonzaga (4-0) is making its second appearance in the event, losing to Marquette in the championship in 2001. The Bulldogs made the trip to Anchorage after winning three games in Spokane by an average of 32.0 points.
Facing a Western Kentucky team that also entered with a 3-0 mark, Gonzaga trailed by as many as seven points before rallying for a 74-71 victory on Thursday. Matt Bouldin scored a season-high 18 points as the Bulldogs survived despite having Abdullah Kuso and freshman Austin Daye foul out.
“It was a very, very gutty hard-earned win,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said. “We weathered a lot of adversity tonight.”
The Bulldogs’ poor 3-point shooting continued as they made 2 of 12 from the arc, and are connecting at just under 24 percent (11-for-46) for the season.
Gonzaga overcame the poor shooting thanks in part to a 43-30 rebounding edge, pulling down 16 offensive boards.
“I think it was a big, big factor in getting us through some rough spots on the offensive end,” Few said.
Texas Tech (3-1) advanced with a 74-47 victory over host school Alaska-Anchorage on Thursday. The Red Raiders forced four turnovers in the first four minutes, raced to a 14-2 lead and never looked back.
“We got off to a very good start obviously and I think that made a huge difference in the way the game went,” Red Raiders coach Bob Knight said. “And it’s the best that we’ve played all year. We had some things going at both ends of the floor.”
John Roberson scored 22 points, Mike Singletary made his first five shots and finished with 15 and D’Walyn Roberts added nine off the bench. All three are freshmen, with Roberson making his second start and Singletary getting his first after playing a total of seven minutes in the Red Raiders’ first three games.
“All three of those freshmen have played varying amounts as we’ve gone along,” Knight said. “The other side of your coin is that they’re playing better than some guys who have been here have been playing. There’s always two sides to a coin.”
The Red Raiders played outstanding defense, limiting the Division II Seawolves to less than 33 percent shooting. Roberson made six 3-pointers as Texas Tech shot 56.0 percent and cruised after building a 42-20 halftime cushion.
“We didn’t play as well in the second half as we did in the first half, but it was a good start for us,” Knight added.
This is the second meeting between Gonzaga and Texas Tech, which eliminated the Bulldogs 71-69 in the second round of the 2005 NCAA tournament.
The winner will meet No. 22 Butler or Virginia Tech in Saturday’s championship.