No. 12 Gonzaga needs OT to edge North Dakota
Down double digits in the second half to visiting North Dakota, No. 12 Gonzaga had a problem. A trapping, full-court press was the solution.
Gonzaga pressured North Dakota into 19 turnovers, most coming in the second half, as the Bulldogs rallied from behind to knock off the Fighting Hawks 89-83 in overtime on Saturday at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash.
Zach Norvell and Josh Perkins combined for 39 points and fueled Gonzaga’s second-half comeback. The Bulldogs trailed by 12 midway through the second half.
“We were lucky that game was at home,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters after the win.
Norvell made plays all over the court, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Perkins hit one of his three 3-pointers in the final three minutes of regulation, and Gonzaga had a three-point lead with just seconds left. Perkins finished with 20 points.
North Dakota’s Geno Crandall hit a 3-point from the right wing with two seconds to play in regulation, sending the game into overtime tied 69-69.
Crandall led all scorers with 28 points and Cortez Seales added 23 points for the Fighting Hawks (4-7) of the Big Sky Conference.
Gonzaga (9-2) responded by scoring the first nine points of overtime, including a 3-pointer and layup from Norvell.
The Bulldogs took final exams for the fall semester during their six days off after a 97-70 rout of in-state rival Washington on Dec. 10. Gonzaga came out sluggish and sloppy against North Dakota.
“We let them get some belief,” Few said. “They outhustled us.”
The Fighting Hawks took advantage, forcing 11 first-half turnovers and taking a 34-30 lead into halftime. North Dakota shot 52 percent from the field and forced 11 turnovers in the first half.
Seales hit 7 of 8 shots in the first half and led all scorers with 14 points.
North Dakota opened the second half with an 11-3 spurt that gave the Fighting Hawks a 45-33 lead. Four ranked teams had already gone down Saturday, and for a while it looked like Gonzaga would be the fifth.
But the double-digit deficit woke up the Bulldogs, who turned up the defensive pressure and answered North Dakota’s run with 13 straight points.
Rui Hachimura’s layup gave Gonzaga its first lead since early in the first half at 46-45. The Fighting Hawks went scoreless for more than five minutes during the Bulldogs’ comeback.
Gonzaga’s press made things miserable for the North Dakota backcourt, which failed to get the ball past midcourt on multiple occasions.
“Our guys really responded and played with poise until some crucial minutes,” Fighting Hawks coach Brian Jones said after the loss. “We fought and clawed and gave ourselves a chance to win the game. I thought their press wore us down.”
Gonzaga’s bench outscored North Dakota’s reserves 16-0, helping the Bulldogs overcome 17 turnovers.
All five Bulldogs starters scored in double figures. Johnathan Williams finished with 14 points, and Killian Tillie and Silas Melson each added 10 points.
Despite the balanced scoring, Gonzaga never established consistent half-court offense and had to rely on its press to create quality opportunities.
“We had an offensive problem and that affected our defense,” Few added. “We’ve been working on our press. That really helped us tonight.”
Marlon Stewart added 15 points and Dale Jones finished with 14 points for the Fighting Hawks, who dropped their fourth straight game.
NOTES: Gonzaga did not attempt a free throw in the first half. ... North Dakota made its first trip to the NCAA Tournament last season but lost four players from that squad and was off to an uneven start to the year. ... Saturday’s game was the fifth meeting between the programs and the first since 1972. ... North Dakota returns home to face Idaho on Dec. 29. Gonzaga hosts IUPUI on Monday.