I’ve got a slow internet connection and about two minutes before i hop on a plane. My game story is on my previous post.
Read on for my day-after Pepperdine post.
—Gonzaga players were well aware of the difference between Thursday’s loss to LMU and Saturday’s win over Pepperdine. The games had little in common. True, LMU is more talented than Pepperdine and the Lions, now healthy, will be a difficult matchup for anyone in the WCC. But the Bulldogs were much more in tune, particularly on the defensive end.
What the Zags had trouble explaining is why.
“The difference was enormous,” forward Elias Harris said. “As you can see if we play defense and go after balls and rebound hard … when we’re just the scrappier team, we beat teams. When we aren’t, anyone can beat us.
“We need to play every game like that and not just stretches in a game.”
Said guard Matt Bouldin: “I don’t know why we didn’t come out like that against LMU, but it was just one of those games, which we can’t have toward the end of the season.”
Said Demetri Goodson: “We just played harder. That last game we were kind of shocked a little bit, we couldn’t really get ourselves going. This game we started strong and finished strong.”
—Pepperdine is the worst shooting WCC team in conference games (38.4 percent) and overall (39.9). Those figures will drop even more after a 27.1-percent effort against GU. The only team to shoot a lower percentage against Gonzaga this season was D-III Augustana (27.0). GU has held eight opponents to shooting percentages in the 30s and two in the 20s.
“When we’re up into the ball and protecting the rim, that’s when our defense is at its best,” head coach Mark Few said.
The Bulldogs did both against the Waves. Gonzaga was only credited with two steals, but the first came less than three minutes in when Steven Gray swiped a pass to the wing, leading to a two-handed dunk at the other end. The Waves had 11 turnovers, not an especially high number, but they led to 16 Bulldogs points and they were one of the reasons why GU’s running game was effective.
Beyond steals and turnovers, Gonzaga blocked 11 shots, tying a school record. Rob Sacre rejected six, Will Foster three, and Elias Harris and Matt Bouldin each had one. GU probably blocked 2-3 more shots on plays where fouls were called – not on the blocker, but on another defender in the area. On one play, Sacre and Harris swatted at a shot with Sacre getting the block before Harris could.
“Let other teams know it’s not easy to score on us,” Sacre said. “You can’t just walk in and think you can get baskets any time.”
Kelly Olynyk, Manny Arop and Sacre drew charging fouls.
—Gonzaga’s start offensively was, well, “awesome,” Bouldin said. GU made its first 10 shots, five of ’em 3s. Sacre set an early tone by posting up deep in the lane on the second possession, drawing a foul. Gray’s steal continued GU’s run and when it was over, Gonzaga led 28-12.
The Zags didn’t miss until Goodson’s driving runner was swatted with 11:10 left.
“I’d love to start every game like that,” Bouldin said. “Especially since the LMU (game), everyone had an off night. Those are the days we need to rely on defense and other stuff and we didn’t. We pushed the ball and it led to a lot of easy baskets. It’s hard to miss layups.”
—Gonzaga made 7 3-pointers, equaling its high-water mark since draining 11 in back-to-back games versus
Opponents have shot 109 more 3s than Gonzaga this season.
—The Waves missed 51 shots, including 16 3s, so offensive rebounding opportunities were considerable. They grabbed 26 of them and converted them into 23 points. Pepperdine won the glass overall, 47-37.
“It wasn’t great, but at this point …,” Few said. “I congratulated them for how they came out. We didn’t rebound it great, but I think they’re very well trained to get rebounds.”
Said Sacre: “They rebounded the heck out of the ball. They went to the boards as hard as they possibly could. That’s one of their best options for scoring. I give them credit for what they did on the boards.”
—Stats of note: Manny Arop grabbed six rebounds, tying Harris for team-high honors, in 14 minutes. Will Foster had four points, three rebounds and three blocked shots in 15 minutes. GU hit just 11 of 18 free throws; Pepperdine was worse, 12 of 20. Sacre had four of GU’s 10 turnovers. Pepperdine, typically a decent 3-point shooting team at 37 percent in conference games, was just 4 of 20 (20 percent).
Few on what transpired between Thursday’s and Saturday’s games: “I just challenged them: Hey, you can’t approach these games like that. Your going to get everybody’s best shot and I think sometimes these guys don’t understand that. You forget this is their first real time through the league – Rob, Elias, Meech, Manny, Bol, Kelly, it’s their first time through. Sometimes as much as you warn them … and Loyola is a good club. They hit some shots, got after us. They have some weapons.”
Gray on returning to the MAC: “We’re looking at giving our best effort in front of our home crowd.”
Bouldin on closing in on a title: “It says a lot about this team, what we’ve been through and the expectations we had going into it. We just have to play with the same fire we did tonight.”
Few on GU’s running game: “We got our break going again. Sometimes Meech and Matt get away from (it), we want to get up the floor as fast as possible, make or miss. They’ve been kind of cruising lately. That hurt us against Loyola.”
Gray on defending Bell: “We really talked about it yesterday and today, making sure he sees eyes, and for the guy guarding him do your best to stay in front of him but know you’re going to have help.”