Difference makers: Julian Strawther's 28-point eruption helps Gonzaga pull away from Grand Canyon

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Mar. 17—Julian Strawther

The junior wing came to Denver with a previous NCAA Tournament high of 12 points and shattered that mark in the first half on Friday. Strawther scored 16 points in a span of 15 minutes, 38 seconds, helping the Zags establish a four-point halftime lead. He tacked on 12 more in the second half to finish with a game-high 28 points, matching the second-highest scoring total of his career. . The Las Vegas native ran up his total with a variety of 3-pointers, floaters and free throws, finishing 9 of 15 from the field, 3 of 6 from the 3-point line and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Strawther also totaled 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season.

Anton Watson

Both of Gonzaga's frontcourt starters were candidates for our second difference maker, but we went with the all-around impact of Watson over the offense of Drew Timme. It was another vintage performance on both ends of the floor from the senior forward, who finished 6 of 9 from the fields and made a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 14 points — his second-highest total in an NCAA Tournament game (17 vs. Norfolk State, 2021). Watson also came up with 11 rebounds to secure his sixth double-double of the season. The Gonzaga Prep product rounded out his stat line with three assists, two steals and one block.

Turning point

Gonzaga went through one of its longest scoring droughts of the season midway through the first half, going more than 5 minutes without a point and more than 6 minutes without a field goal. The Bulldogs reverted back to the offensive force fans have come to know and pulled away from Grand Canyon early in the second half. Strawther, Watson, Drew Timme, and guards Nolan Hickman and Rasir Bolton all contributed to a 14-0 run that allowed Gonzaga to establish a 64-42 lead with approximately 10 minutes remaining.