By Kellan King
Tonight’s clash between the top ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs and the San Francisco Dons was a big one, but it seemed to have lesser stakes for the Dons. USF “clinched” their tournament berth with a win over BYU on Saturday, cementing their resume and putting them safely in the tournament field. Additionally, the Dons chose to rest big man Yauhen Massalski, who suffered a bruised knee against BYU, but might’ve played had the game carried bigger stakes. In Massalskis place, the Dons started Josh Kunen, the first change to the starting lineup all year.
The new look starting lineup struggled early on. Gonzaga’s brilliant frontcourt duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren got off to a hot start. They combined for 16 points, and got the Zags off to a 20-5 lead. The Zags would continue to dominate in the first half behind their 2 bigs. USF struggled to get anything going offensively, missing threes, and getting blocked in the paint by Holmgren.
The start of the second half was more of the same. USF’s leading scorer, Jamaree Bouyea, was held completely in check, and his Bulldog counterpart, Andrew Nembhard, led the Zag offense with 17 points and 9 assists. Late in the game, USF got back into it behind Khalil Shabazz and Julian Rishwain. They combined for over 30 second half points, and Shabazz was pesky on defense, getting steals that led to points. At one point, the Dons had it down to 8 with around 1:30 to go. Rishwain and Bouyea both missed 3s that would’ve cut the lead to 5, and the Zags held on.
Gonzaga will move on to the WCC title game tomorrow, while USF will wait until selection Sunday to see who they draw.