PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Mark Few knows his Gonzaga team is banged up as its fights through the Battle 4 Atlantis. So far, at least, the eighth-ranked Bulldogs have done enough to earn a trip to the tournament’s championship game regardless.
Drew Timme hit a free throw with 20.6 seconds left in overtime and Gonzaga survived Payton Pritchard’s shot for the win to beat No. 11 Oregon 73-72 on Thursday.
It was hardly a highlight-reel type of game for Gonzaga (8-0). The Bulldogs blew a 17-point first-half lead. They shot just 29% in the second half. They used just seven players in a game that saw two highly ranked teams battling in a tense fight to the horn — both in regulation and overtime.
“You always wonder with every team: what is it really going be like when your backs are pressed up against the wall and they’ve got hands on you?” Few said. “They responded terrifically, as good as any of our teams quite frankly.”
Gonzaga sealed the win when Pritchard missed a jumper against Ryan Woolridge and Gonzaga’s Filip Petrusev tied up the rebound during a tussle in the paint. The possession arrow favored the Zags with 0.2 seconds left, allowing them to secure the win by inbounding to Joel Ayayi to kill the last of the clock.
That came after Gonzaga seemed on the brink of victory in regulation after a pair of huge 3-pointers from Corey Kispert, then had a missed 3 for the win from Killian Tillie just before the horn.
Petrusev had 22 points and 15 rebounds for Gonzaga, which blew a 24-7 lead in a matchup of neighboring-state programs playing three time zones away from their Pacific Northwest campuses.
Pritchard finished with 17 points to lead the Ducks (6-1), who erased a huge deficit for the second time in as many days — only this time in a losing effort.
It was less than 24 hours earlier that Oregon completed a comeback from 19 down in the second half to hold off Myles Powell and No. 13 Seton Hall in a thriller to end the tournament’s first day. Afterward, coach Dana Altman expressed concern about the Ducks having a short turnaround to the afternoon game after expending so much energy rallying past the Pirates.
His concerns seemed justified when Oregon found itself in another hole right from the tip, making just 3 of 14 shots while Gonzaga ran out to a 24-7 lead.
But Oregon cut into the gap by halftime, then took its first lead on Pritchard’s 3 over Kispert at the 11:51 mark of the second half.
Oregon shot just 34% for the game.
“Our guys battled hard after a bad start,” Altman said. “It’s on me to get them moving the ball better. It’s on me to get them in better sets. … Our offense has got to be much more efficient than we showed tonight.”
Oregon: Simply put, the Ducks have shown plenty of fight in their two-game stay so far in the Bahamas with pushing back from big deficits.
“I hope they learn we can’t have those stretches,” Altman said, adding: “You just can’t do that on a consistent basis and have a good ball team.”
Gonzaga: The Zags didn’t have freshman Anton Watson, who was wearing a boot on his right foot after suffering an ankle sprain early in Wednesday’s win against Southern Miss. Tillie didn’t play in that one due to swelling in his knee following a surgery in October. Additionally, Woolridge and Admon Gilder are fighting through knee issues.
“It’s kind of a warrior’s mentality that Coach Few has been repeating over and over again,” said Kispert, who had 17 points. “When the ball goes up, we’re going to run with who we’ve got. In our case, the 7-8 guys that are out on the floor happen to be really, really good.”
Oregon’s Chris Duarte hit two free throws with 7.3 seconds left in regulation to ultimately force the OT. He had 16 points…. Altman was specifically frustrated by the number of off-the-dribble shots taken by his team, including Pritchard’s last one. … C.J. Walker had 12 points and four offensive rebounds, three coming in OT for Oregon. … Kispert has made 12 3-pointers in two Atlantis games.
Oregon: The Ducks will play in Friday’s third-place game against No. 6 North Carolina.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs will play in Friday’s championship game against Michigan.