It was apparent from the outset this one was going to lack style points. That was never more evident than seeing the scoreboard read Gonzaga 16, San Diego 9 — with 4:15 left in the first half.
Still, Gonzaga’s 64-47 victory showed the Zags can successfully adjust to the various styles and tempos they’ve seen from opponents. More below in my day-after post.
Links of note: S-R game story, John Blanchette’s column, and articles from Portland’s easy win over Patty Mills’-less Saint Mary’s from newspapers in San Jose and Portland. The Pilots, whose lone WCC loss was at GU, and Zags meet Thursday in Portland.
—Back to the game. The victory capped a 2-0 weekend for the Zags, who have a one-game lead over Portland, two over Saint Mary’s and three over San Diego. GU has won eight straight.
“That’s a very, very good weekend,” head coach Mark Few said. “We played two really good teams that were fighting for the conference championship and we were able to take care of business at home. (
—Part of the reason for the sometimes plodding play was what we mentioned in the game story: the familiarity of the team’s coaching staffs and knowledge of each others offensive sets, not to mention that both teams are the best defensive squads in the conference. Another factor is that USD matches up with Gonzaga better than most WCC teams. Toreros guards limited penetration, for the most part, and generally stayed close to the paint, where they were able to help on defense. Forwards Gyno Pomare and Rob Jones are tough to post up. Gonzaga’s Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray struggled with their perimeter shooting, but the Bulldogs still managed to get to the foul line 26 times (making 18) and scored 17 second-chance points.
“You have to play a lot of different ways, you have to be successful a lot of different ways,” Few said. “Not everybody just comes in here and runs up and down with us. That’s probably what I’m most proud of. We showed we can win much like we did at
Gonzaga obviously prefers a faster tempo than its seen against WSU,
“It is hard,” Bouldin said, “but we’ve come a long ways. That was definitely frustrating, especially for me and Jeremy this past year, facing teams that pack it in, but if it’s effective it’s effective. I thought we made big strides tonight.”
—Gonzaga silenced most of
“We fronted him all night, that was our game plan,” GU forward Josh Heytvelt said of Pomare. “I think we did frustrate him, not letting him get many touches. It kind of frustrated their offense because they like to go through him so much.”
Few applauded Heytvelt’s efforts containing Pomare, who scored one of his two buckets posting up Austin Daye.
“I thought Josh had one of best defensive efforts,” Few said. “He has been coming along. He did a great job the other night against (SMC’s Omar) Samhan, too. He’s really putting together a solid senior year on defense.”
Added Few: “He’s just more attentive and more engaged for longer periods of time. When we can get him short rests it helps because I think he had a tendency in the past to lose his concentration on the defensive end, maybe because he was tired. He was much more engaged and did his role.”
Daye was coming off a rugged night against the talented Diamon Simpson of Saint Mary’s. He was matched up with Jones, particularly in the second half, and held the Toreros forward to two points and just one offensive rebound. Bouldin and Micah Downs also took turns guarding Jones
Daye, a prolific scorer, is well aware that some regard him as a defensive liability. He poked fun at himself when asked about his defense on Jones.
“I wasn’t too happy with my performance on Diamon so I tried to make a point that I can defend, in some ways,” said Daye, chuckling over the last few words. “I tried to keep him out of the paint.”
—Daye had his customary assortment of offensive moves. He buried his only 3-point attempt, drained all four of his free throws, scored on a tip-in, scored in transition, a post-up and on a nifty crossover on Jones before swishing a 15-footer from the baseline.
He finished with eight boards, his eighth straight game with seven or more rebounds. His rebounding average has gone up by just over one per game in that span.
“Plus 19 (rebounding margin against
—Gray and Bouldin, who have carried the team offensively for good portions of the season, had off nights.
Gray went scoreless for just the second time in his career (the other was last season against
“I couldn’t tell you,” Gray said of his struggles. “I was trying to do other stuff, defend and get some rebounds. It felt good, but it was one of those days.”
Bouldin was just 1 of 6 and his drives to the basket often were stymied by the Toreros. However, he did get to the free-throw line, where he made 7 of 12. Bouldin had his string of double-digit games snapped at 7. He had nine points and four rebounds.
Daye on USD coach Billy Grier, the former GU assistant whose recruiting efforts helped bring Daye to Spokane: “I love the guy. He’s one of the coolest coaches, I wish I could have played for him, I really do. He’s a great guy. All you hear is good things about him. He’s one of the funniest guys I know.”
Bouldin, who was recruited primarily by Tommy Lloyd and Leon Rice, on Grier: “We’ve been really close since I got here. It’s always weird seeing him down there (on the opposite bench), it really is.”
Gray on being 7-0 midway through the WCC season: “We’ve definitely come out and taken it one game at a time, which is a big thing. We’ve been able to improve on a lot of things; we’ve been getting better on defense and with our rebounding. The more we improve on rebounding the more it helps us.”