The host Dons led 75-74 with 5:24 to play, and the score was tied with less than three minutes left before Gonzaga closed with a 15-2 burst for a 96-83 victory. Brandon Clarke led the Zags with 24 points.
SAN FRANCISCO – Brandon Clarke scored 24 points and No. 5 Gonzaga got a tiebreaking three-pointer from Zach Norvell Jr. with less than three minutes remaining to spark a 15-2 run to finish off a 96-83 victory over San Francisco on Saturday night.
Rui Hachimura added 21 points and Josh Perkins scored 16 with some clutch baskets down the stretch to lead the Zags (16-2 overall, 3-0 West Coast Conference) to their 17th straight conference victory, including the WCC postseason tournament.
The Dons (14-3, 2-1) lost by 28 points to Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals last year but showed they have closed the gap a bit this season behind another strong performance by Frankie Ferrari, who led the way with 21 points.
Ferrari made three free throws with 5:24 to play to give the Dons a 75-74 lead, their first edge since early in the first half. The game went back and forth from there, with Perkins making a pull-up and a three-pointer for Gonzaga and USF answering with a reverse by Jordan Ratinho and a floater from Ferrari.
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The game turned in Gonzaga’s favor when Norvell connected on his three to make the score 84-81. After Jimbo Lull missed a shot down low for the Dons, drawing complaints for a foul by coach Kyle Smith, the Zags answered with another three by Geno Crandall to take control.
Clarke added a key block late to help seal Gonzaga’s 15th straight victory in the series.
“We know coming in we’re going to get every team’s best,” Perkins said. “For us to execute like that down the stretch, there’s nothing better. To have those tests like that prepare us for big games in the future.”
San Francisco seemed to have a decent chance for its first victory against a top-five team since beating No. 5 Wichita State in Hawaii on Dec. 29, 1981.