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Day after Michigan State

This won’t be a typical day-after post because we weren’t in East Lansing, but I do have some notes, quotes, pictures and links below.

Read on.

LINKS:  First, here’s the recap that ran in the S-R, photos from the game, Detroit Free Press gamer, column, side bar and short notebook; Lansing State Journal gamer, photos (no. 2 pretty much sums up the physical nature of the game), side bar and blog.   

—Let’s begin with center Robert Sacre (pictured above), who showed a variety of moves: left-handed jump hook, right-handed jump hook, turnaround 6-8 footers, a bank shot. He gave MSU fits inside, despite being limited to 19 minutes by foul problems. He had no trouble carving out space deep in the lane and scored or forced the Spartans to foul.

Likewise, forward Elias Harris was tough inside, delivering 17 points and nine boards in 31 minutes. He, too, was in foul trouble most of the second half. They were a presence at the defensive end as well (along with Will Foster and Kelly Olynyk) as MSU missed an inordinate number of close-range shots, many of those altered by of the size of GU’s front line.

The inside presence of Sacre and Harris gives GU a much different look than last year’s ‘4’ (Austin Daye) and ‘5’ (Josh Heytvelt). Those two were more comfortable operating away from the basket. Sacre and Harris are bruisers.

“If you look at our program over the last 11 years, we’ve had different teams,” GU coach Mark Few said. “When we played (MSU) in Maui, we could really score the ball with Adam (Morrison) and J.P. (Batista) and (Derek) Raivio. We could mix it up some, but we had some nice finesse. Last year we were a total finesse team. We were a highly skilled team that could score the ball. I don’t know how that team would have fared in a banger game like this. So far this year, we’re starting to look like a (MSU coach) Tom Izzo team, which isn’t bad.

“We’ve had teams like this in the past with Ronny (Turiaf) and Cory (Violette). This team likes to hit, they play physical. I thought that was a good sign tonight.”

—If you’ve visited this blog before, you know that I very rarely bring up officiating because frankly they very rarely decide the outcome. But there were several head-scratchers in Tuesday’s game, which I believe was worked by an all-WCC crew. Sacre was called for a blocking foul (I think it’s picture No. 5 in the S-R photo gallery link above), picking up his fourth foul with 9 minutes left. It appeared Sacre’s feet were set and he absorbed the impact straight-on.

Admittedly, block-charge is probably the toughest call for an official. One of the NCAA’s new rules for 2009-10 concerns secondary defenders, who will be automatically called for a block if they are directly under the hoop and make contact with a shooter. The NBA instituted a similar rule several years ago. The NBA also has a semi circle painted under the basket, which makes it easier for officials to determine the defender’s location. NCAA schools probably need to get the paint brush out. The block-charge call is tough enough without having to make officials calculate where the defender’s feet are upon contact.

Sacre, by the way, appeared to be several feet away from being directly under the basket. Earlier, it looked like a GU defender drew a charging foul, even though he was very close to being under the hoop.

Also questionable: the goal-tending call and the fifth foul on MSU’s Raymar Morgan with 1:08 remaining for a reach, but it looked clean on replay. That sent Elias Harris to the foul line where he made 1 of 2 to pull GU within one point.

—GU’s starting backcourt of Demetri Goodson (0-for-5 FG, 1-2 FT, 1 assist, 2 turnovers), Matt Bouldin (5-15 FG, 2-7 3pt, 3-3 FT, 3 rebs, 4 assists, 4 turnovers) and Steven Gray (3-14 FG, 1-8 3pt, 6-6 FT, 5 rebs, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 3 blocks, 2 steals) had a tough night against the Spartans, who have a talented group of guards.

Gonzaga took pretty good care of the ball (11 turnovers) and had numerous open looks from the perimeter, but couldn’t connect. MSU had 20 turnovers and GU piled up a 20-9 edge in points off TOs. Points in the paint were almost a draw (MSU 30, GU 28). Gonzaga was outrebounded 44-38.

“Every time we play these guys is seems like it’s a great battle,” Few said. “You enjoy it because they’re so well prepared, it’s always like a big chess match. You change things on the fly because they are taking away options A, B, C and D, and we tried to take away options from them.”

The Spartans had a 26-8 edge in bench points, thanks to Raymar Morgan’s 16 points. He’s usually a starter, but he’s been battling ankle issues. He left the game at one point after re-injuring his ankle following a collision with Steven Gray, but returned and played a key role down the stretch.


Gray on the Breslin Center environment: “Just a great atmosphere for college basketball, and something I will remember for the rest of my life. The students get into it and it’s kind of a giant fishbowl almost.”

Gray on GU’s performance in its first few games: “I think we’re surprising and shocking a lot of people, but seeing how hard everyone works in practice it’s not a real big shock we come out and play as hard as we do. I think it’s going to carry over.”


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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Sean Kramer Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.

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