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Recap and highlights: Gonzaga surges late, holds on to beat San Francisco 77-72 behind Graham Ike's 22 points

Jan. 25—Close games haven't been kind to Gonzaga with a 1-4 record in games decided by 10 points or less. San Francisco hasn't been much better at 2-3.

This one had the look of a back-and-forth contest that would go down to the closing seconds with neither team leading by more than six points through the first 35 minutes.

Just when it looked like Gonzaga had taken command with a 17-4 spurt, the Dons rallied to make it interesting in the final minute. The Zags survived some shaky free-throw shooting late to hold on for a 77-72 victory in front of a full house of 6,000 Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Gonzaga (14-5, 5-1 West Coast Conference) broke a third-place tie with the Dons (15-6, 4-2).

Graham Ike scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and Anton Watson had 13 of his 15 in the closing half. The two combined to fuel a 6-0 run that broke a 48-48 tie.

Ben Gregg hit a 3-pointer, Watson made a floater and Ike added four points as the Zags stretched their lead to 65-52 with 2:45 left. USF hit a couple of 3-pointers and took advantage of GU missing foul shots to close within three points three times in the final minute.

Gregg, who finished with 12 points, and Ike each hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory.

Marcus Williams led USF with 19 points.

Neither team had much success offensively in the opening half. Gonzaga made just 35.7% of its shots and was limited to 10 paint points by USF's interior defense. The Dons only hit 40%, but they had at least two possessions with three shots, thanks to offensive boards, that led to five points.

San Francisco's eight offensive boards led to an 8-3 edge in second-chance points. The Zags did a nice job defensively on Mogbo, but forward Ndewedo Newbury had 10 points and Isaiah Hawthorne came off the bench to chip in 10 points.

BOX SCORE

Graham Ike, Gonzaga find way to contain San Francisco star Jonathan Mogbo in victory

Graham Ike's free-throw shooting and low-post scoring were some of the biggest keys to Gonzaga's second-half rally during a gutsy 77-72 win over San Francisco Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. — Read more

TV Take: Gonzaga and San Francisco bring effort, but lack entertainment in 'sloppy' game

If your excitement grade for a Gonzaga basketball game is predicated on how close the outcome is, then the Zags' 77-72 key West Coast Conference home win over San Francisco probably graded pretty well. It certainly did for the ESPN2 crew of Dave Flemming and Sean Farnham on Thursday night. — Read more

Difference makers: Graham Ike's second-half surge helps Gonzaga stave off San Francisco

Graham Ike — Read more

First half

18:02 — USF 2, GU 0: Newbury opens the scoring for the Dons, after three missed field goals by both teams.

15:50 — GU 7, USF 5: Nembhard breaks his streak of 28 consecutive assists without a turnover, but makes up for it with a layup and a steal. Dons are called for a foul at the first media timeout.

Gregg hit a 3 for the Zags, continuing to be productive since taking over in the starting lineup.

11:46 — USF 13, GU 10: Both teams relying on their 3-point shot, neither has been reliable, each 2 of 8 at the U12 media timeout.

Nembhard leads GU with five points and two assists. He's about the only one going so far for GU. Hawthorne has five for USF.

7:39 — USF 18, GU 17: Still tightly contested through the early going. Hickman hits a 3 and Nembhard finds Gregg for an easy layup at the U8 media timeout.

Nembhard has five points and three assists, while Gregg adds five points.

5:15 — GU 22, USF 18: Hickman hits a 3 and Watson gets a layup to give the Zags the lead. The Dons take a timeout.

GU snaps a long string of sloppy play with a 7-0 run.

3:44 — GU 24, USF 21: Thomas hits a 3-pointer to cut the Zags lead at the U4 media timeout.

1:49 — USF 28, GU 26: Dons take control with their own 7-0 run and GU calls a timeout. Newbury and Mogbo take over on that run with strong rebounding an defense.

Halftime

San Francisco took the lead with a couple of offensive rebounds and a tip-in as time expired. The Dons hold a 31-30 advantage over Gonzaga after a sloppy half.

Gonzaga trailed for a large part of the first 10 minutes, before going on a 13-3 run to take a six-point lead. The Dons answered with a 7-0 run down the stretch to even it back up.

Gonzaga is shooting 36% from the field (10 of 28), 36% on 3-pointers (5 of 14) and 50% on free throws (5 of10). San Francisco isn't shooting much better (40-33-50%), but holds a 23-15 rebounding advantage. Gonzaga has an edge in points off turnover (12-6).

Nembhard and Hickman lead GU with eight points apiece. Watson and Ike have two fouls apiece, limiting their first-half minutes.

Second half

16:26 — USF 42, GU 36: Dons taking control early in the second half, on a 6-0 run over the last 29 seconds.

15:31 — USF 42, GU 41: Zags answer right back with a 3-pointer from Hickman and a chance at a three-point play, as Ike finishes a post move with a foul.

Hickman up to a team-high 11 points with three 3s, after starting the game 0 of 5 from the field. Ike playing with three fouls, needed to match USF's physicality in the post.

12:48 — GU 46, USF 45: Gonzaga speeds things up and gets USF to commit a couple of bad turnovers, then Nembhard scores a layup in transition to take the lead. Dons take a timeout.

11:18 — GU 46, USF 45: Dons miss a couple of 3s badly at the U12 media timeout. USF on a 3:06 scoring drought and have made 1 of their last 9 attempts.

7:54 — GU 48, USF 48: Both teams on over 2-minute scoring droughts and Hickman is fouled to signal the U8 media timeout. Nobody taking control down the stretch.

6:27 — GU 54, USF 48: Watson and Ike take over and give the Zags a quick 8-0 run. USF calls a timeout.

Ike has 11 of his 14 points in the second half, still playing with three fouls.

5:03 — GU 56, USF 52: Nembhard gets trapped in the corner and GU calls a timeout to keep possession.

Ike picked up his fourth foul, he leads four Zags in double figures with 14 points, along with Nembhard (12), Hickman (11) and Watson (10).

USF still without a field goal in 5:40, staying in the game from the free throw line.

2:44 — GU 63, USF 52: Zags take full control and have made their last six shots at the U4 media timeout. GU picked a good time for their best stretch of the game.

Dons can't buy a shot on the other end, just 1 of their last 14 and scoreless the last 2:36.

0:58 — GU 69, USF 64: Williams hits a 3-pointer and the Dons take a timeout, cutting into the Zags lead.

0:37 — GU 71, USF 68: Zags now on the verge of collapse, as the Dons cut it to one possession. GU calls a timeout, really struggling from the free throw line late.

0:00 — GU 77, USF 72: Gonzaga holds on despite struggling to close out the last minute.

Starting 5

Pregame

Gonzaga isn't used to playing catch up, at least not recently.

That's where the Bulldogs (13-5, 4-1 West Coast) find themselves this year though, in a tie for third place in the WCC with the San Francisco Dons (15-5, 4-1), who the Zags host tonight at 6 p.m.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Tonight's matchup will be crucial for both teams, who trail the conference's first and second place teams, Saint Mary's (14-6, 5-0) and Santa Clara (14-7, 5-1), respectively.

The Zags responded from a last-second road loss to Santa Clara on Jan. 11 with blowout wins over Pepperdine and San Diego last week. GU turned to a larger starting lineup, replacing freshman wing Dusty Stromer with Ben Gregg.

Gregg suffered back spasms in Saturday's win over USD, but played through the injury.

San Francisco edged WCC last-place Pacific in overtime to open conference play, before rolling through USD, Portland and Loyola Marymount. The Dons suffered their first setback with a 77-60 home loss to SMC on Saturday.

Series history

Gonzaga beat San Francisco three times last year, behind a late go-ahead layup on the road and then by comfortable margins at home and in the WCC Tournament. GU has won the last 27 meetings since 2013.

Team stats

Individual leaders

Game preview

One-loss WCC teams Gonzaga and San Francisco tangle at the Kennel

Gonzaga should face a steady diet of upper tier WCC foes virtually every week the rest of way — one exception being Feb. 10th when the Zags step out of conference to visit No. 6 Kentucky — beginning with Thursday's date with San Francisco at the McCarthey Athletic Center. "Like I told them in there," Zags coach Mark Few said after a 105-63 blowout over San Diego last Saturday, "we're trending upward but now we're going to play one of the better teams in the league, one you're going to have to beat if you have designs on winning the league championship." — Read more

Key matchup: USF's Jonathan Mogbo, Gonzaga's Anton Watson have similar roles

It figures to be one of the best individual matchups in the West Coast Conference this season. Jonathan Mogbo does a little, correct that, a lot of everything at both ends of the court for San Francisco. Anton Watson handles a similar role for Gonzaga. — Read more

More on the Zags

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Coming off a career-high 26-point outing against San Diego, Gonzaga's Braden Huff was named West Coast Conference Freshman of the Week Wednesday morning. — Read more

Gonzaga putting 'faith in defense,' vowing to improve 'nastiness' during WCC play

By normal college basketball standards, there's been nothing visibly wrong with Gonzaga's offense this season. — Read more

Former Gonzaga star Chet Holmgren named to Team USA player pool for Summer Olympics

Former Gonzaga star and current Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is one of the 41 players Team USA will examine as it begins to assemble its 12-player roster ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. — Read more

Where Gonzaga stands in polls, brackets, key metrics and national championship odds

Gonzaga is on the outside looking in for the second straight week in the Associated Press college basketball poll. The Zags are also on the outside looking in with most bracket projections for the NCAA Tournament. However, GU's numbers improved in a few other metrics that hold more weight with the NCAA Tournament selection committee — with more opportunities are on the horizon. — Read more