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No. 9 Gonzaga trails most of way but edges San Francisco at finish

Jan 5, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Malachi Smith (13) drives the baseline past San Francisco Dons guard Julian Rishwain (2) during the first half at War Memorial at the Sobrato Center. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Rasir Bolton’s putback with eight seconds left Thursday night enabled No. 9 Gonzaga to escape with a 77-75 West Coast Conference win at San Francisco.

Bolton, who scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, grabbed Drew Timme’s missed shot and laid it in while being fouled by Tyrell Roberts. It marked the only time the Bulldogs (13-3, 2-0 WCC) led since the game’s first 90 seconds.

The Dons (11-7, 0-3) had a last chance to tie or win the game after Bolton missed his free throw, but they couldn’t even get off a final shot. It was a bitter end to one of their best performances of the year, one that saw them lead 71-65 with just over four minutes left.

Julian Strawther finished with 16 points for Gonzaga, while Anton Watson added 14. Timme chipped in 11 but made just 3 of 16 shots after averaging more than 27 points in his previous seven games.

Roberts scored 18 points for San Francisco, which didn’t score after he canned a fadeaway jumper in the lane for a 75-73 lead with 2:04 remaining. Khalil Shabazz added 17 points, but he managed only two in the second half, and Zane Meeks finished with 14.

San Francisco set an immediate tone by answering Strawther’s game-opening 3-pointer with 11 straight points, Roberts capping it with a 3-point shot at the 17:09 mark. It resembled the team that started 6-0 and beat then-No. 25 Arizona State by 37 last month than the one that entered 5-6 in its last 11 games.

While Gonzaga was able to tie the score at 15, it never grabbed the lead for the half’s remainder. Every time the Dons needed a bucket, Shabazz either supplied it or set it up. Shabazz canned a 3-pointer and made a free throw on consecutive possessions for a 34-24 lead with 7:14 left.

Shabazz polished off a 15-point half with back-to-back treys that upped the margin to 12 and Isaiah Hawthorne’s putback of a Shabazz miss sent San Francisco to the locker room with a 46-36 advantage.

–Field Level Media