PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Gonzaga coach Mark Few knows his team is banged up as it fights through the Battle 4 Atlantis. But the eighth-ranked Zags have done enough to earn a berth in the tournament-championship game.
Drew Timme made a free throw with 20.6 seconds left in overtime and Gonzaga survived Payton Pritchard’s shot for the victory to beat No. 11 Oregon 73-72 on Thursday.
The Zags will play Michigan for the Battle 4 Atlantis title at 11 a.m. PT Friday.
It was hardly a highlight-reel type of game for Gonzaga (8-0). The Zags blew a 17-point first-half lead. They shot 28.6% 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 victory when Pritchard missed a jumper while guarded by Ryan Woolridge and Filip Petrusev of the Zags 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 victory 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 three-pointers from Corey Kispert, then had a missed three for the win from Killian Tillie just before the horn.
Petrusev collected 22 points and 15 rebounds for Gonzaga, which blew an early 17-point 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 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.
Altman’s concerns seemed justified when Oregon found itself in another hole right from the tip, making 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 three over Kispert at the 11:51 mark of the second half.
Oregon shot 33.8% 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.”
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.”
Oregon plays sixth-ranked North Carolina for third place Friday.
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 victory against Southern Miss. Tillie didn’t play in that game because of swelling in his knee after 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 seven, eight guys that are out on the floor happen to be really, really good.”