It's a dog-eat-dog world. This was never truer than in the battle between Bulldogs that took place yesterday in the sold-out Spokane Arena. It was a fight to the finish to prove who was going to be top dog: Gonzaga or Georgia.
The game would be intense...for the players and the coaches.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were stagnant on offense for much of the first half, while Georgia looked to be excelling. The Zags played a passing game on the perimeter while Georgia was attacking the basket. Despite their lack of aggressiveness, Gonzaga managed to keep a short lead on the Georgia Bulldogs but only after trailing or tying the first 10 minutes. Neither team enjoyed an advantage of over five points and there were countless lead changes. The sell-out crowd of 10,830 appeared as though they had eaten a little too much turkey for Thanksgiving, remaining relatively subdued for the opening minutes. However, a series of high-light material plays by the Zags soon had them on their feet. A Blake Stepp three tied the game at 18 apiece; a Cory Violette miss resulted in a skying Erroll Knight one-handed put-back jam; a seemingly impossible lob was caught by Tony Skinner for a two-handed alley-oop; and a rarely seen one-hand jam by Stepp capped the reel. Surprisingly enough, after all the eye-popping plays, the "good guy" Bulldogs held only a one point lead over the Georgia Bulldogs, 24-23. That's when Adam Morrison woke up. Morrison scored on an array of impressive interior moves and made two free-throws, something that was giving the Zags trouble, with 1.2 seconds remaining in the half. Gonzaga went into the locker rooms with a 37-33 advantage.
Sean Mallon tries to take a charge.
The majority of the second half seemed to be déjà vu; both squads exchanged leads and neither found its opportunity to pull away. The half melted away relatively quickly. That is, until the last minute. Senior Violette fouled out, after contributing 11 points and 5 boards, and was replaced by redshirt freshman Sean Mallon. Mallon answered the challenge of replacing Violette, scoring two critical baskets to give the Zags the lead, 69-67 with 57 seconds remaining. Defensive specialist Knight got whistled for an accidental foul, as he fell on top of a Georgia player with 26.4 seconds left. The Georgia player made both of his free-throws to tie the game, 69-69. With mere seconds remaining on the Zags' shot clock, Stepp drove the lane and was fouled. Stepp hit both clutch free-throws to give his Bulldogs the 71-69 advantage. Georgia's Rashad Wright got a shot off over Stepp, which swished followed by a grown from the deafening Arena spectators. Blake drove the length of the court, but missed a half-court attempt as the buzzer sounded. The dog fight was going into overtime.
Ronny Turiaf was relatively quiet for regulation play, but woke up for the extra period. Three Turiaf free-throws, followed by a Skinner block and a Ronny basket, put Gonzaga up 76-71. But Georgia answered with a three to cut the lead to two with 1:15 on the clock.
Erroll Knight guards Levi Stukes. Erroll will be called on all season to provide defense.
Fruitless efforts by both teams on the offensive end kept the two point advantage to Gonzaga. Ronny collected a key rebound with 8.3 seconds left and sunk both double-bonus shots. Gonzaga 80-76. Despite the outcome unquestionable, Georgia fouled Turiaf again with only .4 seconds remaining in OT. Ronny calmly stepped to the line and hit both. The Gonzaga Bulldogs came out as top dog, 82-76. Overtime could have been renamed Ronny Turiaf Time, as he scored all Zag points (11) in the period.
Gonzaga received a balanced effort from its players for regulation. The Zags were led by the 22 points and 9 rebounds from Turiaf. Stepp contributed 13 points and dished 8 assists, Morrison scored 12 points, Skinner tallied 8, and Mallon and Knight each scored 6.
The Zags travel to Seattle to face the University of Washington Huskies on Wednesday at 7:30 for yet another dogfight.