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Gonzaga never gave up and neither did their fans. In a rematch of last year's thrilling Gonzaga victory, St. Joseph's traveled to the Kennel for revenge. Without the vocal talents of the infamous Kennel Club due to Gonzaga's winter break, it was up to the season ticket holders and the general admission public to make up for the Club's absence. They rose to the occasion as did both teams as the crowd was treated to a hard-fought and entertaining overtime basketball game.
The crowd was not needed in the opening minutes of play. The Bulldogs' post players fueled a run that would put the Zags up 17-7. Cory Violette and Richard Fox dominated early while the Bulldogs held star guard Jameer Nelson to an acceptable ten points for the first half. Against nearly any other team this would be considered a comfortable lead, but not the St. Joseph's Hawks. Shutting down Gonzaga's offense while getting theirs fired up, the Hawks gained the lead. Not to be outdone, the Bulldogs closed the gap, tying the game at 35 going into intermission. Facing one of the stingiest defenses in the nation, Gonzaga played tough ‘D' themselves and actually out-shot the Hawks in the first half, connecting on 41% of their shots to St. Joe's 38%.
In such a tight game with two well-matched teams, the difference between victory and defeat can be small. Gonzaga out rebounded the Hawks 46 to 34 for the game and topped them in assists, 12 to 10. But the costly difference was in turnovers where Gonzaga gave up the ball 16 times to St. Joseph's 10, and second half free throw shooting when the Zags could only connect on 14 of 22 opportunities. The turnovers and inability to bury charity shots, put the Zags in a ten point second half deficit with about five minutes to go. Then the Zags brought the crowd to life, ignited by a Kyle Bankhead three. An unbelievable Turiaf dunk (who was once again limited in playing time due to his injured foot), a Stepp three, and a pair of Ronny free throws closed the gap. All the while, Cory Violette played like a monster in the paint, ending the game with his fourth double-double this season, 19 points and 15 rebounds. In a heart-stopping play, Nelson missed a three point attempt at the buzzer to put the game into overtime.
Early in OT, it looked like GU would win. Josh Reisman did a remarkable job harassing Nelson, one time stripping the ball clean from the cat-quick guard, while Blake drained a three, and Fox connected on one of two free throws to put the Zags in the lead. But then it became Jameer Nelson time. Coming off on-ball screens, Nelson shed himself of Stepp and made a basket off a back-door cut and finished his 34-point effort with a driving lay-up with 8 seconds left in the game. That left time for Richard Fox to try a hurried 14-footer at the buzzer after Blake Stepp was unable to get open off the dribble. A near miss and the game ended with the Hawks in the lead, 79-78.
The appreciative crowd had seen a special basketball game. While the team was obviously heartbroken at the loss and the end of the 29 game Kennel winning streak, the fans gave them a standing ovation. Sometimes the losses that are hardest to take are the games in which you played well enough to win. The fans knew they had witnessed a winning effort, despite the score.