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Recap and highlights: No. 23 Gonzaga erupts in second half for 86-68 win over San Francisco

Feb. 29—SAN FRANCISCO — Graham Ike was hot pretty much from the start.

It took a while, but once the rest of Gonzaga Bulldogs heated up, they put together one of the team's best stretches of the season.

The 23rd-ranked Zags opened the second half with a 24-3 burst — after they had scored the last four point of the first half — to cruise past San Francisco 86-68 on Thursday at the Chase Center.

Gonzaga's seventh consecutive win secured the second seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament. The Zags (23-6, 13-2) close the regular season Saturday against No. 17 Saint Mary's, which defeated Pepperdine to clinch the title outright.

USF (22-8, 11-4) will be the third seed. The Dons face Santa Clara on Saturday. The Broncos are locked into the fourth seeded after falling to Portland on Thursday.

Ike's 16 first-half points carried Gonzaga through some rough first-half stretches. Gonzaga led only once in the first half and that came with just 4 seconds left when Anton Watson connected on a 10-foot jump hook on the baseline. The bucket put the Zags on top 35-34 at the break.

Gonzaga's lead grew quickly in the second half. The Zags scored the first 13 points, 11 by Ike and Nolan Hickman.

After Ryan Beasley's 3-pointer with 15:58 left, Gonzaga scored the next 11 points to take command 59-37. Ike and Hickman combined for nine of those points and Ryan Nembhard chipped in a 10-foot jumper.

Gonzaga made 14 of 15 shot attempts, including baskets by Dusty Stromer and Watson to close the first half, over a span of 10-plus minutes. Meanwhile USF misfired on 15 of its first 16 attempts in the second half.

GU made nine shots in a row as its lead expanded from 42-34 to 65-42. By then, Ike had matched his season high of 26 points, scoring his final points with 12:49 remaining.

BOX SCORE

First half

19:36 — SF 2, GU 0: Watson misses the Zags first attempt after winning the jump and the Dons open the scoring with a layup from Williams.

16:00 — SF 7, GU 2: Zags not getting anything on offense, open 0 of 4 from the field with two turnovers. Ike has GU's only points at the first media timeout with two free throws.

Dons are 3 of 8 and led by Thomas, who hit a 3-pointer.

9:53 — SF 18, GU 16: Both teams finding more of a rhythm on offense, Dons have an edge at the U12 media timeout.

Ike leads GU with 10 points, Williams leads USF with nine.

7:44 — SF 21, GU 18: Thomas hits a 3-pointer and Stromer turns it over at the U8 timeout. Zags 0 of 3 on 3-point attempts, 7 of 16 from the field. GU also has five turnovers.

3:55 — SF 26, GU 22: Dons have led the whole half, but Zags will shoot two free throws on the other side of the U4 media timeout to try and close it back to one possession.

Still no 3-pointers for GU, which is 0 of 4. Tough half for Hickman, who is 0 of 4 from the field. Ike really the Zags' only offense. He leads with 14 points.

Mogbo caused some problems for GU's smaller lineup.

Halftime

Gonzaga trailed the entire half, until there were 4 seconds left.

Anton Watson made a jump shot in the closing seconds to give the Zags a 35-34 lead over San Francisco at halftime at the Chase Center in San Francisco.

Graham Ike has kept GU in the game with 16 points, despite the Bulldogs going 0-for-4 on 3-point attempts and committing seven turnovers.

USF is led by Malik Thomas with 13 points.

Second half

18:16 — GU 42, SF 34: Hickman starts the second half in a big way, knocking down a jumper and a 3-pointer to help give the Zags a 7-0 run.

Hickman's 3 is the Zags' first of the game. Ike also made a shot, he's up to 18 points.

14:39 — GU 54, SF 37: Total domination in the second half for Gonzaga. USF calls a timeout with GU on a 6-0 run and having hit its last five field goals.

Ike is on fire, up to 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting. Hickman joins him in double figures with 10. Nembhard has eight points, six rebounds and four assists.

10:46 — GU 65, SF 42: Gregg gets his first basket of the game, as GU has made its last nine shots from the field. Nothing slowing down the Zags in the second half.

7:20 — GU 70, SF 48: Zags have cooled off, but still in total control at the U8 media timeout. No field goals in last 3:26 for GU.

2:58 — GU 79, SF 54: Zags going to win this one, locking up the No. 2 seed for the WCC Tournament. Now they'll turn to a showdown with conference champion Saint Mary's on Saturday.

Starting 5: Gonzaga using same starters of Nembhard, Hickman, Gregg, Watson and Ike. USF going with Thomas, Sharavjamts, Williams, Mogbo and Newbury.

Pregame

Gonzaga has been building toward this week.

The No. 23 Bulldogs, winners of six straight games, open a crucial road trip tonight against the San Francisco Dons at the Chase Center, in San Francisco. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

Although at neutral site, the game will still be considered a Quad 1 opportunity for GU, which is 1-5 in such games.

The Zags (22-6, 12-2 West Coast) will then turn to No. 17 Saint Mary's on Saturday, which can lock up the WCC regular-season title tonight at Pepperdine.

Even if SMC clinches, the Bulldogs and Dons (22-7, 11-3) will battle for the second seed in the conference tournament, which comes with an automatic berth to the semifinals.

USF lost at Gonzaga 77-72 on Jan. 25. The Dons nearly upset Saint Mary's last Tuesday, but fell 70-66.

Series history

Gonzaga holds a 77-22 all-time record over USF and has won 28 consecutive meetings since 2012.

Team stats

Individual leaders

Game preview

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For starters, Gonzaga forward Ben Gregg has been a difference maker

After a deflating West Coast Conference loss at Santa Clara on Jan. 11, Gonzaga coach Mark Few adjusted the starting unit, inserting junior forward Ben Gregg for freshman wing Dusty Stromer. The Zags have gone 11-1 since, the lone loss to No. 17 Saint Mary's 64-62 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Their offensive statistics have soared with Gregg in the first five. — Read more

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