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 left Friday night, No. 14 Gonzaga managed to lose as sixth-ranked Baylor rattled off the last eight points to earn a 64-63 decision in Sioux Falls, S.D.
There isn’t a lot of time for the Bulldogs to dwell on that outcome, though, as they have a dangerous game Monday night when Kent State visits Spokane for a non-conference contest.
Gonzaga (5-3) owned a 63-56 advantage with 1:41 remaining after Malachi Smith dunked, but it whiffed on its last five possessions. It committed a couple of turnovers, including a shot clock violation while it tried to add to a one-point lead.
Rasir Bolton missed a driving layup under heavy guarding just before time expired. It was a fitting capper to a game where the Zags simply weren’t in sync offensively after Baylor limited their best player, Drew Timme, to six shots and nine points.
It didn’t help that Timme found foul trouble, eventually fouling out before Jalen Bridges hit two foul shots with 16.1 seconds left to put Baylor ahead to stay.
“They just double him constantly,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few of Baylor’s strategy. “They front him, they don’t want him to have catches. I thought he did a great job of spraying it and finding our guys and putting us in position.”
Despite his off-game, Timme is still averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while canning 61.4 percent of his field goals. Julian Strawther is scoring 13.6 ppg and grabbing 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’re still averaging 81.1 ppg and connecting on 49.9 percent of their field goals.
But they will 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 is coming off an 83-68 win Friday night at home against defending Summit League champion South Dakota State. It started the game with 11 unanswered points and led by no fewer than eight for the night’s remainder.
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,” said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. “Different guys on our foster have the capability to step up at different moments.”
Carry averages 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 of these two programs.