Back with the day-after post from Gonzaga’s 72-70 win over Saint Mary’s on Thursday, played out before a loud and packed McKeon Pavilion.
“It was nuts,” GU reserve center Will Foster said. “It was nuts.”
Yes it was. More below. I’ll post my GU-San Francisco advance later today.
—Gonzaga debuted new black uniforms with ‘Zags’ in white letters across the front and white numerals. They’re shown in the picture above. I thought they looked pretty good. Not crazy about them, but pretty sharp. Your thoughts?
—A couple of problems that have haunted Gonzaga all season flared up again Thursday. Gonzaga was outrebounded 45-33. The offensive glass, a particular sore spot, went to Saint Mary’s 16-8. Eight of Diamon Simpson’s 15 rebounds were on the offensive end. He would have done even more damage, but he missed 6 of 12 free throws.
As bad as those numbers were, the differential would have been much bigger if not for Josh Heytvelt’s hard-hat work inside with 10 boards, Will Foster’s 3 and Micah Downs’ 3.
“Josh was great,” head coach Mark Few said. “He was basically taking on (Omar) Samhan and (Diamon) Simpson all night. I was proud of the way he handled the crowd, handled both those guys and stuck to his game.”
Foster stabilized GU’s interior defense and rebounding with quality stints in both halves.
“We had foul trouble (in the first half) and Diamon was beastin’ some of our guys, so we had to make adjustments there,” Few said. “I thought Will really helped us. He gave us some size, defensive presence and rebounding presence, because we weren’t getting that from the other guys we circulated in there.”
Foster played 13 minutes, equaling his season high, and was credited with two blocks. I had one of the worst seats in the house (essentially the back row, upper level), but it sure looked like he blocked two straight shots by Simpson late in the first half.
“Will was very effective,” guard Jeremy Pargo said. “Any time you’re 7-foot-5 and get playing time, you’re always going to be effective.”
Another GU bugaboo has been free-throw shooting. Gonzaga missed five of its last eight to drop from 79 percent to 69 for the game. Heytvelt was 2 of 4 down the stretch, but 11 of 14 overall. Pargo made 5 of 6, missing his final attempt with 4 seconds left. Bouldin, a 75-percenter in his career, was just 2 of 6. He missed two with 9.9 seconds left.
“I missed some big free throws at the end,” Bouldin said, “but we came away with a win.”
—The Gaels, who play at a much slower pace with Patty Mills sidelined with a broken hand, worked the shot clock on most possessions. Add in all the offensive rebounds and Gonzaga seemed to be stuck on the defensive end for long stretches.
“It’s hard when you’re playing 35 seconds of defense, they were really deliberate, and they’d get an offensive rebound and do it again,” Bouldin said. “That really wears on you.”
—Simpson became the first Gael in school history with 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. He surpassed the rebounding milestone with 15 against Gonzaga.
—The Gaels trotted out another new starting lineup. Carlin Hughes and Ian O’Leary both started the first 23 games, but they came off the bench Thursday. Mickey McConnell and Lucas Walker got starting nods. Wayne Hunter, who has started the last three games, made four 3-pointers and led SMC with 18 points. Hughes also hit four 3s – two in the final 31.4 seconds – and had 14 points.
Asked why he made the changes, Gaels coach Randy Bennett said, “so we could be better defensively.”
—Gonzaga had a number of uneven stretches offensively. The Bulldogs shot 44.2 percent and made 6 of 11 3s, but it wasn’t their smoothest performance.
“We had some stupid turnovers,” said Bouldin, who had three of the 12. “Once we slowed down and really executed what we were supposed to, we started taking it to them, starting getting a little gap.”
—Austin Daye and Steven Gray endured off nights. Daye had two first-half fouls, both 35 feet from the basket. His first field goal came on a 3 with 9:20 left. He finished with nine points and four boards. He made two key free throws with 55.9 seconds remaining.
Gray hit a 3-pointer on Gonzaga’s first possession. He went 0 for 2 the rest of the way. He finished with one rebound and two turnovers. Gray wasn’t looking when one Pargo pass sailed by his head. That turnover was given to Pargo. A couple of series later, Gray fumbled the ball out of bounds near midcourt and Few might have set a record for quickest substitution, quickly pointing at Micah Downs to check in.
—Pargo continues to struggle with turnovers. He had three assists and three turnovers in the first half. He finished with six assists and five turnovers – one was the aforementioned pass that Gray didn’t see coming.
Pargo has five games with at least five turnovers. In WCC play, he has 31 assists and 26 turnovers with his best game coming against
“He was pushing it pretty good. He got six assists and got himself in double figures (11 points),” Few said. “He just had a couple bonehead turnovers. You can’t predict when they’re going to come. They seem to come in bunches so I try to get him out of there after I see the first or second one. He also got some guys good shots that they didn’t make, when they were toed up for open 3s.”
Bennett on whether Hughes’ was fouled by Heytvelt on a made 3-pointer in the closing seconds: “He got fouled for sure. Now whether the official thinks you leaned in or the guy fouled him is up to the official, but there was definitely contact.”
If a foul had been called, Hughes would have had a chance at a four-point play to tie the score with 9.9 seconds.
Bouldin on the game environment: “They came out of the gate ready to go. Their fans are the best in the conference beside our fans. They are a brutal group to play in front of. We were fired up, they were fired up. There was a lot of energy on the floor.”
Bouldin on reaching 1,000 career points: “It’s an honor. It’s really cool to be part of something like that, especially with all the great players that have come through here.”