After a tough loss, No. 14 Gonzaga faces formidable Kent State
It was the kind of loss that can turn into two or more if a team isn’t careful.
Ahead by seven points with less than two minutes remaining Friday night, No. 14 Gonzaga managed to lose as sixth-ranked Baylor rattled off the final eight points to win a 64-63 decision in Sioux Falls, S.D.
There isn’t much time for the Bulldogs to dwell on that result, however, as they have a dangerous matchup Monday night when Kent State visits Spokane for a non-conference contest.
Gonzaga (5-3) owned a 63-56 advantage with 1:41 left after Malachi Smith’s dunk, but it ebbed over the final five possessions. It committed a pair of turnovers, including a shot clock violation while trying to extend a one-point lead.
Rasir Bolton missed a drive under heavy guard just before time expired. It was a good fit for a game where the Zags were simply out of sync offensively after Baylor limited their best player, Drew Timme, to six shots and nine points.
It didn’t help that Timme fouled out, eventually fouling out before Jalen Bridges hit two foul shots with 16.1 seconds left to put Baylor ahead to stay.
“They’re just constantly doubling him,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Baylor’s strategy. “They front him, they don’t want him to have catches. I thought he did a good job spraying it and finding our guys and putting us in position.”
Despite the off-game, Timme is still averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while making 61.4 percent of his field goals. Julian Strawther scores 13.6 ppg and takes a team high 8.6 boards. Bolton chips in 12.4 ppg.
While the Zags have run into a couple of opponents lately that have been able to knock their offense out of rhythm, they are still averaging 81.1 ppg and making 49.9 percent of their field goals.
But they’ll get another test from Kent State (6-2), which has proven it can play with anyone. Just ask top-ranked Houston, which shot just 32 percent from the field and hacked up 23 turnovers on Nov. 26 in a 49-44 squeaker over the Golden Flashes.
Kent State wins 83-68 at home Friday night against defending Summit League champion South Dakota State. It started the game with 11 unanswered points and led by no less than eight for the rest of the night.
Four players reached double figures for the Golden Flashes, led by Sincere Carry’s game-high 23 points. They also got a double-double from Cli’Ron Hornbeak, who scored a career-high 11 points while grabbing 12 rebounds.
“We have a lot of balance and a lot of guys who can get the job done,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “Different guys in our foster have the ability to go up at different times.”
Carry is averaging 18.5 points and 5.1 assists for the Golden Flashes, who have outscored opponents by nearly 15 points per game.
This will be the first meeting between these two programs.