I watched the GU-SMC replay into the early hours and was sleeping soundly when the phone rang this morning with a radio interview request. So, the Z’s will come later and the day-after post sooner.
Here are the links: S-R gamer, John Blanchette column on Omar Samhan, S-R photos, A.P., Seattle Times and Contra Costa Times (authored by S-R’s Dave Trimmer). San Diego, Gonzaga’s opponent Saturday, played without Brandon Johnson (groin injury) and lost to Portland. The Pilots, meanwhile, might not get Nik Raivio back this season.
Read on for more from Gonzaga’s 80-61 win over Saint Mary’s.
—For the third straight game the Zags got off to a slow start, but their defense kept them close. When the Bulldogs hit their stride on offense, GU started to take control. The Bulldogs trailed Saint Mary’s by eight early, but caught up the midpoint of the half and took the lead for good on Matt Bouldin’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. Saint Mary’s tied it twice early in the second half, but never led again.
The play at the end of the first half came about after GU called a timeout just after G.J. Vilarino sped across midcourt with about 5 seconds left. In that situation, head coach Mark Few often doesn’t call timeout and lets the players freelance. This time, Few subbed Bouldin for Vilarino and Robert Sacre (pictured above) for Will Foster. As it turned out, Sacre came out past the 3-point line to take the inbound pass. He handed off to Bouldin, who shook Matthew Dellavedova and buried a 3-pointer. GU was just 1 of 6 on 3s before Bouldin connected.
—Gonzaga hung tough when its Big Three of Bouldin, Steven Gray and Elias Harris were quiet offensively for most of the first half. GU led 18-16 with 8:41 left before Harris scored all five of his first-half points in a 3-minute span. Bouldin had five of his seven first-half points in the last 90 seconds. Gray tallied five of his six points in the final 4:07.
—For the third straight game, Gonzaga held an opponent well under its typical scoring total.
A big reason for those sub-40 percent numbers has been Demetri Goodson. He defended
Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin have been solid defensively and the Zags have done a better job on the interior with Sacre, Elias Harris and Will Foster.
“We’re playing more physical and tougher and we’re protecting the rim better than we were,” Few said. “We’re just doing better things on defense.”
Saint Mary’s made only seven second-half field goals. Clint Steindl’s 3-pointer came with 10:07 left and the Gaels didn’t make another basket until 1:09 remained. They made five free throws during that stretch.
—Yes, those were new uniforms and sweats Gonzaga sported last night, courtesy of Nike. The Bulldogs weren’t expected to wear them until Saturday’s game, but the schedule got bumped up a couple days (wouldn’t have had anything to do with national TV vs. 21-win opponent, would it?). The sides of the shorts with the script ‘Zags’ are perforated.
Chatted briefly with Chris Pontarolo-Maag about 90 minutes before tipoff and he was amazed by the weightlessness of the uniforms. He said it almost felt like he wasn’t wearing anything (no, that’s not an invitation for inappropriate comments!) The Nike HyperElite uniforms are said to be 70 percent lighter than traditional uniforms and they’re tailored to each school’s logos and traditions.
—Gonzaga got a nice lift from its bench. Will Foster continued his energized play with two points, two blocks, one rebound and one assist in nine minutes. Bol Kong had seven points and Kelly Olynyk added four points, seven boards and two steals. Manny Arop, in limited duty, grabbed two rebounds and had a steal.
“I thought our young guys did well,” Few said.
Kong’s 3 was his first since Pepperdine on Jan. 21.
Foster’s block on Omar Samhan in the second half was met with a deafening roar. Roughly a minute later he was fouled on a post move and went to the foul line. Foster, who missed his first 10 free throws this season before connecting on a pair against
“I don’t want to overdo it,” a smiling Foster said.
Foster has had a major impact in the last three games. Foster and Rob Sacre alternated on Samhan and limited him to six second-half points and essentially wore out the Gaels center. Samhan had 31 points in the first meeting.
“Rob did a nice job, as did Will,” Few said. “I think Rob got discouraged and lost his confidence a little bit on defense (in
“Happy Will,” Bouldin said of his fellow senior. “He’s the man. When he comes in and plays hard, he’s a tough player. Obviously he’s a defensive threat.”
—Sacre was wearing a pad on his right biceps. He said he has a deep bruise in his arm from a collision during the
“It’s a physical game,” he said. “Like coaches say, in the NFL guys are injured in the second week. You just have to suck it up and find a way to deal with it and Jen (Nyland, GU trainer) figured out something for it. It’s like a deep bone bruise. I went in to post, got hit, it happens. You just have to be tough.”
—Steven Gray is in a bit of a shooting slump. After a red-hot five-game stretch, Gray has made 10 of 41 shots, including 3 of 18 3s, over the last four games. He has contributed in other ways (22 rebounds, 12 assists, 3 steals, solid defense).
—Stats of note: Gonzaga has won six straight over Saint Mary’s. The Gaels are 14 of 40 on 3-pointers (35 percent) in two losses to GU. They usually make 41.6 percent from distance. Throw out Gonzaga’s 3-of-12 start and it made 29 of 47 shots (61.7 percent). Free throws were a mixed bag for Gonzaga (12 of 18). Eleven steals marked the fifth time the Zags have had double-digits this season.
Gonzaga had an 8-0 edge in fastbreak points. GU lost the rebounding category (34-32) for the first time in 13 games. Samhan has led Saint Mary’s in scoring 18 times, including 8 of the last 9 games. The Gaels 17 turnovers were tied for its second most this season. They had nine in the first meeting with GU. Saint Mary’s nine assists tied its season low. The Gaels had 19 in the January game.
Finally, Saint Mary’s attempted more free throws than Gonzaga (25-18). That’s just the third time that’s happened to GU this season (
Harris on GU’s improved second-half play: “Less turnovers, more ball movement, playing more team ball. That worked out for us pretty well.” (By the way, Harris’ father, Michael, attended the game.)
Few on Bouldin: “I thought he was great all game. He’s really doing a great job with the ball screens and he’s been patient and taking what they give him. He has a good pace to his game, especially when he gets in the lane. He’s playing off two feet instead of up in the air.”
Sacre on Gonzaga’s second-half defense on Samhan: “What changed is we got fired up. When we are average rebounding and average defending, we’re an above-average team. But when we defend, we’re one of the best teams in the country. That’s all about us being tough and having a very physical team.”
Few on whether his players know about the possibility of playing the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in
Samhan: “We weren’t very smart in the second half, shooting shots that were uncharacteristic of our team and not taking care of the ball. They’re long and athletic and started to wear us down.”
Gaels coach Randy Bennett: “It’s a tough place to play, but the No. 1 thing is you cannot turn the ball over. Not only did we turn it over, they forced us to take bad shots and we took bad shots. That’s what happened in the second half. Their defense bothered us.”
Few on posting another 20-win season: “It just means we’ve been able to stay relevant and consistent.”
Bouldin on being more assertive in the second half: “They were denying me pretty hard, trying to limit my touches, but I definitely felt we kind of needed a little boost.”
Few on facing San Diego on Saturday: “San Diego is having a rough year, but obviously with who they are and their familiarity with us (coached by ex-Zag assistant Billy Grier), I’m sure they’re going to try to slow the tempo down and try to frustrate us by keeping the game in the 40s and 50s. We have to rely on our defense and keep getting better.”