Freshman Harris leads No. 21 Zags over Davidson
SEATTLE (AP)—Elias Harris. Robert Sacre. Demetri Goodson. Steven Gray. Heck, seemingly every Gonzaga player dating back to John Stockton.
That how deep the Bulldogs went to show how great life can still be without their scoring star. It’s something Davidson can only dream of right now.
Harris scored a season-high 27 points, Sacre and Goodson added their own career bests of 23 and 22 points, and No. 21 Gonzaga overcame the absence of injured leading scorer Matt Bouldin to race past Davidson 103-91 on Saturday night.
“He’s been phenomenal. We’ve been depending on him quite a lot,” a chuckling Gray said of Bouldin, who is averaging 16.8 points but watched in a pink shirt and tie as the Bulldogs (8-2) won for the first time in four tries in their annual game across the state in Seattle.
Bouldin was cracked just below the temple by an opponent’s forehead on Wednesday and said he was knocked out briefly early in the win over Division III Augustana. Trainers determined the senior should stay out Saturday to prepare for semester finals and then another huge test: No. 8 Duke in New York’s Madison Square Garden next weekend.
“It was a big loss, but it helped the team more,” Sacre said, after he dominated the smaller Wildcats inside. “It’s a good thing to show we can be successful without him.”
Freshman Jake Cohen scored 16 points and Brendan McKillop tied his career-high with 15 on five 3-pointers for Davidson (2-7), which was 85-20 in three seasons with star sharpshooter Stephen Curry before he left a year early for the NBA last summer.
“I think we’re getting better. We’re in the process of working through getting some experience,” Wildcats coach Bob McKillop said.
Thanks to an unending parade of free throws, the Bulldogs scored their most points since a 109-106 victory over Michigan State in Hawaii on Dec. 22, 2005. And that game lasted three overtimes.
The last time Gonzaga scored so many in regulation was on Dec. 21, 2001, in a 105-45 breeze past Eastern Oregon.
“And they don’t even have Matt Bouldin, so this is a pretty darned good basketball team,” McKillop said.
Gonzaga made 41 of a Zags’ record 54 free throws. Sacre was 11 for 18 from the line, and Harris was 11 of 14. Harris, a recruiting gem from Germany, made his first seven shots.
“The last few games, we were dreaming, sleeping on the floor,” Harris said of sloppy wins over Washington State and Augustana, plus a loss last weekend to Wake Forest. They led to what Harris called the most intense practices of the season.
“Now, we’re back,” he said.
The rematch of Davidson’s thrilling win in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tournament was supposed to be lackluster. The four others who started with Curry and led Davidson to within a missed 3-point attempt of the 2008 Final Four are gone, too.
That made Saturday’s game seem more like a small college of 1,800 students trying to stay with a national power, one that just won the Maui Invitational and appears headed to a 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
Yet Davidson, which has beaten only Fredonia State and The Citadel this season, trailed by only two at halftime behind four consecutive 3-pointers by McKillop, the coach’s son.
Gonzaga then clamped down defensively after halftime. A dunk by Sacre with McKillop falling helplessly at his feet, plus two 3-pointers by Gray sandwiched around a slashing basket by Bol Kong, put the Bulldogs up 72-58 with 13 1/2 minutes left.
The lead got to 85-67 on a soaring, two-handed dunk by Sacre. The 7-foot sophomore stomped away, pounded his chest and screamed to proclaim his dominance.
Gonzaga was without its top three scorers by the midway point of a streaky first half. Gray, its second-leading scorer, left with his second foul, and Sacre departed with his second foul with 9:08 remaining in the opening period.
But the Zags answered a 13-0 run by Davidson by forcing backcourt turnovers off traps. They scored the next 17 points to retake the lead for good.
The three wins Davidson had in the ’08 NCAAs behind Curry, starting with Gonzaga, remain its only victories in 66 games against ranked opponents dating to 1974.