By ROBERT BETTMANN
After a tough week, the Gonzaga boys basketball team got back on track on Feb. 11 with a convincing victory over Archbishop Carroll, winning 65-59.
While Gonzaga still has a 23-3 record, two of those losses have happened recently, with one coming on Feb. 6 against St. John’s and the other on Feb. 9 against Paul VI.
“We were coming off two tough losses that could have gone the other way. And they didn’t. They went against us,” Eagles coach Steve Turner said. “And now, we had a game where I thought for a while we were in control, and then we let it get out of control. And what was most impressive was our gut-check, and how we decided to dig our heals in and fight together to get the victory.”
Gonzaga jumped out to an early lead (10-5) with scoring from sophomore forward Terrance Williams and senior forwards Myles Dread and Allin Blunt.
Even as the Lions (15-8) began to fall into a hole, individual players showed strengths. Freshman Aminu Mohammed had more than one finish at the rim, and started off the scoring with a clean block that turned into a fast break layup. He was the game’s overall high scorer with 20 points. Six-foot-10 freshman Tegra Izay asserted himself defensively early and throughout, maintaining a consistent patrol of the paint that caused cutter after cutter to search for another option.
Nevertheless, Gonzaga presented a balanced and effective offensive unit with four players putting in multiple buckets in the opening quarter, resulting in a 22-14 lead.
There was a particularly tense moment when Mohammad took a hard foul while in the air completing a breakaway layup. His free throws made the score 30-23. Another shot from the top of the key from point guard Jamal Muhammed on the following possession then closed the gap to 32-25.
On the next possession, Gonzaga grabbed three successive rebounds, the last of which resulted in a basket by Myles Stute. By the end of the play Gonzaga had four players clustered around the rim, while Carroll had played itself out of position. As the half came to a close, the score was 34-27 in favor of the Eagles.
Mohammed and Muhammad continued to shine in the third for Carroll, but unfortunately for the Lions, so did the Eagles’ Chuck Harris, Anwar Gill, Dread and Williams. When Williams hit both free throws near the end of the third, the score was 45-39. After a nice put-back by Izay, followed by a breakway layup by Harris, the period ended at 47-41.
Mohammed hit a pair of free throws to start the fourth quarter, but then both teams went into a scoring drought until a feed inside to Izay brought the score to 48-45 – the closest it had been since the opening moments of the game.
The Eagles got it back inside to Williams to make it 50-45. After Izay hit one of two free throws, teammate Cory Barnes finished a steal at the rim, sinking the basket to make it 50-48. Following a Gonzaga miss, Carroll worked the ball into Mohammed who made the basket, knotting the score at 50.
Williams answered with a tough finish to make it 52-50 with 3:40 to go, but Carroll’s Elijah Perkins-Cross hit a long three to give the Lions the lead (53-52). Gonzaga then turned the ball over a series of times that led to another finish by Perkins-Cross, and just like that it was 55-52 in favor of the Lions with 2:38 to go.
Williams was fouled on successive possessions, hitting three of four free throws to tie the game up once again at 55 with two minutes to go. After a stolen inbounds, Harris hit a shot from the top of the key, and then completed a drive to the basket off a Carroll turnover to quickly put the Eagles up four.
Perkins-Cross finished a strong put-back basket, but Dread effectively sealed the victory for Gonzaga when he hit a close-range pull up to make it 61-57 with 12 seconds to go.
“I feel like we stayed composed,” said Williams, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “Everybody played their role today. During those three losses we didn’t stay together as a team. We stand as a team.”
Gonzaga went 16-for-20 from the charity stripe as a team, while Williams was 10-for-12 by himself.
“Chuck Harris played consistently today, and Terrence Williams made big time free throws at the end,” said Dread, who finished with 11 points. “And Anwar Gill made huge plays, pushed us to the win.”