San Diego State knocks off No. 12 Gonzaga
SAN DIEGO — San Diego State led No. 12 Gonzaga wire to wire thanks to a stifling defensive effort and some timely baskets in a 72-70 victory on Thursday night at Viejas Arena.
The Aztecs built a 12-point lead in the first half and held off every Gonzaga rally.
San Diego State shot poorly from the floor but found offense at the most critical junctures.
Forward Jalen McDaniels scored two of his 15 points on a thunderous put-back dunk with 4:48 left, giving the Aztecs a seven-point cushion.
McDaniels added 10 rebounds for the second double-double of his career. Forward Matt Mitchell also scored 15 points for the Aztecs (8-3).
Gonzaga (10-3) cut the deficit to two points three times in the final two minutes, but San Diego State guard Devin Watson hit a turnaround floater as the shot clock expired with 1:52 left, and guard Trey Kell sank two free throws with 1:16 left. Time ran out on the Bulldogs’ final opportunity after Jesse Wade made a 3-pointer with 0.1 second remaining.
“We got plenty of stops, we just couldn’t find any baskets,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “McDaniels came in and made some big plays, made some jump shots against our zone (defense), had a couple put-backs. Then at the end, Trey Kell shot nothing but free throws.”
San Diego State shot 21 of 26 from the free-throw line, while Gonzaga went 11 of 17. The Bulldogs attempted just one foul shot in the first half.
Kell scored eight points at the line in the closing moments, but it was the basket he nailed from the floor that provided San Diego State a huge boost. He dribbled past Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins and hit a scooping layup in traffic with 47 seconds left to effectively put the game away.
“Trey Kell, senior on the floor, that’s what you wait for,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “You wait for seniors to steady the ship at the end of the game.”
Despite never leading, the Bulldogs stayed close behind 22 points from guard Zach Norvell Jr. and forward Johnathan Williams’ 12 points and 15 rebounds. Forward Rui Hachimura added 13 points, contributing to the Bulldogs’ 32 points in the paint.
However, offensive woes from the opening tip plagued Gonzaga.
San Diego State opened on an 11-0 run, holding Gonzaga scoreless for the first 4:23. The Aztecs’ aggressive man-to-man defense forced nine first-half turnovers, and 16 for the game.
“Sixteen turnovers — you can’t win on the road like that,” Williams said. “We just couldn’t get over the hump. We kept turning the ball over on those possessions, couldn’t get good looks, and San Diego State ... made plays.”
San Diego State also challenged the Bulldogs’ shots effectively, particularly from behind the 3-point arc, where Gonzaga was just 9 of 29.
Gonzaga did not hit its first 3-point attempt until 4:32 remaining before halftime on a wide-open look for Williams, missing its first six and the subsequent six after two straight makes.
NOTES: Gonzaga’s 42.4 percent shooting was its worst of the season, coming on the heels of a season-best 68 percent on Monday vs. IUPUI. ... San Diego State also shot a season-worst 36.1 percent. ... Gonzaga G Zach Norvell Jr. was the sole player on either roster to score in double figures until 8:40 remained in regulation.