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Zags, Sooners collide at the Arena

I've got several items to post tonight.

Thursday is the debut of the S-R's Four Corners college basketball page, so I'll post my contributions to that below. Also, my GU-Oklahoma game preview. And a recruiting update. There are a limited number of tickets available for Thursday's game at the Arena (www.ticketswest.com, or 509-325-SEAT). By the way, fans are encouraged to wear black.

Read on.

Here's GU-related copy for the Four Corners page....

First, this note, which will be part of a combined notebook with the four D-I schools in our area:

Air time

When Gonzaga completes an upcoming road trip to Chicago for Saturday’s game against Illinois, the Bulldogs will have traveled more than 16,000 air miles for non-conference games. The Zags logged 10,000 of those miles on trips to Maui (5,680) and New York (4,340).

In the 2006-07 non-conference season, GU had 15,865 air miles with trips to New York, Phoenix, Atlanta/New York, Seattle and Charlottesville, Va.

The Bulldogs will close in on 20,000 non-conference air miles when they visit Memphis (3,320) in February.

(There will also be a note on how teams are defending Demetri Goodson by sagging off him on the perimeter. You can find that note on the day-after EWU post on this blog).

Here's a look ahead at Saturday's game...

COMING UP: Saturday vs. Illinois, United Center in Chicago, 10 a.m.

OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs have precious little preparation time for Illinois after playing Oklahoma on Thursday night. The Illini, 9-4 after an overtime win against Northwestern in a Big Ten opener Wednesday, are a balanced club with all five starters averaging double figures. Junior guard Demetri McCamey leads the way at 14.1 points and 5.4 assists. Junior forward Mike Davis, who led the Big Ten with nine double-doubles last season, essentially averages a double-double (12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds). He has six double-doubles this season and leads the Big Ten in rebounding. The Illini are averaging 84.9 points in nine wins, 65.3 points in four losses.

 

Here's the GU-Oklahoma preview... 

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

Nothing like a couple of breathers before a relaxing trip or two to open conference play.

Yeah, right.

Gonzaga, no stranger to tough scheduling, dials it up even higher over the next few weeks, beginning with tonight’s showdown against Oklahoma at the Arena in the annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Classic. After that, Gonzaga hops on a plane for Chicago to face Illinois on Saturday morning. Then the Bulldogs dive into West Coast Conference play on the road against Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego.

“Usually this time of year you get to really work on yourself a lot, but we don’t have that luxury,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We’ve kind of been thrown into the fire. We have a really tough stretch coming up, probably as difficult a stretch as we’ve ever faced at Gonzaga.”

First things first. The Sooners (8-4) have run hot, thumping Arkansas and Arizona, and cold, with a three-game November losing streak and a 15-point setback against hot-shooting UTEP 10 days ago in their last outing.

“They’ve had a few tough losses, but they’re very capable,” GU senior guard Matt Bouldin said. “I know their back court is solid with (Willie) Warren and (Tony) Crocker, and they have a lot of young talent in the front court. We have to play hard and physical, like we did (against Eastern Washington on Monday).”

Warren, named the preseason national player of the year by The Sporting News, has scored at least 24 points in six of his 11 games. The 6-foot-4 sophomore guard averages 18.7 points, but the Sooners are at their best when he has company in the scorebook. He’s averaging 22.3 points in losses and 16.7 points in wins. The Sooners have also struggled defensively in four losses, allowing 82, 76, 100 and 89 points, respectively, to VCU, San Diego, Houston and UTEP.

“Back in Texas, I used to play against (Warren) all the time,” said Gonzaga sophomore guard Demetri Goodson, who grew up near Houston while Warren prepped in Fort Worth. “He had 38 (points) one time and I had 33, but my team won by 20 in the championship (of an AAU tournament). He hit something like seven 3s. Whoever guards him is going to have a tough time. He can shoot, penetrate, just a really smooth player.”

Senior guard Tony Crocker has stepped up his play, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds in the last six games. Point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin (10.9 points, 4.6 assists) and 6-9, 290-pound Tiny Gallon (11.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg) have made big contributions as true freshmen.

Warren is probably a lottery pick. Crocker has had a phenomenal career, Tiny was recruited by everybody and the point guard was recruited by everybody,” Few said. “We have to make sure we bring it because this is a team that can compete with anyone in the country.”

Warren, Mason-Griffin and Gallon were McDonald’s High School All-Americans. The only schools with more McDonald’s All-Americans are North Carolina (seven), Duke (six) and Villanova (five).

And finally, recruiting...

I haven't been able to connect with Kyle Dranginis, but I have confirmed the 6-4 guard from Skyview High in Nampa, Idaho, has verbally committed to Gonzaga. He's a junior, so he'll be in the 2011 recruiting class.

His father, Tim, told me Wednesday night that GU offered Dranginis a scholarship just before Christmas.

"He called the coaches back a day or two later and gave them a commitment," Tim said. "It's kind of a cool Christmas present."

Dranginis was the 4A player of the year in Idaho last year after leading the Hawks to the state title. The Hawks are 7-1, the lone loss was in the season opener to No. 3 Timberline, a 5A school. Tim said his son was offered scholarships by Utah, Utah State and Boise State, and Notre Dame, Washington State, San Diego and Portland were among the schools showing interest.

I'll post more on Dranginis tomorrow.  

 




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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