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Sun., Jan. 10, 2010, 8:18 a.m.

Day after Portland

Back at it after Gonzaga's entertaining 81-78 win over Portland on Saturday. It didn't seem like this one was going to be quite so close at the end, but the Pilots refused to crumble and gave themselves one shot, albeit a tough one, to tie it.

First, the links: S-R gamer, Seattle Times, Oregonian and Vancouver Columbian.

Read on for the rest of the day after Portland post.

If Gonzaga’s newcomers didn’t know what they were in for during WCC play, they got a pretty good idea on Saturday. The Chiles Center was packed beyond capacity with the second largest crowd in the facility’s history. The environment was outstanding. The basketball was pretty good. And the newcomers did just fine.

Especially Bol Kong and Kelly Olynyk. Kong scored seven straight points and had 12 in the second half. Olynyk was a force inside and out. He made his first 3-point after nine misses to start the season. Add in a G.J. Vilarino jump shot and five points from Elias Harris (it doesn’t seem right to consider him a newcomer at this point) and the newcomers scored 26 of Gonzaga’s 39 second-half points.

“Bol pretty much has stepped in, with the exception of Duke game, and given us lift off the bench. He certainly did that today when we were in a dry spell,” coach Mark Few said. “I thought Kelly showed a lot of poise. He made a lot of big plays with the clock winding down and even as the game was getting down below two minutes.”

Olynyk had 13 points and joined Harris as the team’s leading rebounders with seven. GU won that category 36-31.

“It really complements our team when we can give our starters a rest,” Olynyk said.

Gonzaga typically is the biggest home game on the schedule of WCC opponents. The stands are generally packed and students often wear specially-made t-shirts just for the GU game.

“Every game, especially in conference,” guard Matt Bouldin said. “A lot of these teams don’t get to play on national TV as often as we do, every game is not as big as this one. We have to come in with the same energy as they do on the road and at our place. We have a big target on our backs. All these teams are going to play really well, execute well and play better than they have all season. That’s something we deal with every night.”

--Steven Gray had a tough night from the get-go. He picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds. He didn’t pick up any more fouls in his 23 minutes of time, but he couldn’t locate his shot (1 of 8, 0 of 5 on 3s) and he committed three of GU’s seven turnovers).

It was reminiscent of the WSU game in which he spent most of his energies defending Klay Thompson – defending well, we might add. In this one, he guarded Nik Raivio or Jared Stohl, depending on who was in the game at the time.

The easy-going junior kept his sense of humor afterward. When Matt Bouldin was explaining “we weren’t hitting our 3s for a stretch, me and Steven went cold there for a few minutes,” Gray overheard from the adjacent locker stall. He smiled and essentially agreed with Bouldin’s statement.

--Robert Sacre also struggled. He played 15 minutes before fouling out for the first time this season. He didn’t score in the first half. He picked up two quick buckets in the second half, but then he picked up his third foul. And soon thereafter his fourth before finally fouling out with 2:40 left.

“He was just frustrated with fouls,” Few said. “It’s tough when you go from Illinois where it’s no holds barred and it wasn’t quite the same (here). Sometimes it’s hard for players to adjust.”

--Both teams were efficient on offense. GU had 16 assists vs. 7 turnovers (it’s low mark of the season). Bouldin had a season-high nine assists and would have had 2-3 more, but his passes led to free throws instead of baskets when the receiver was fouled. (Shouldn’t there be a way to honor that statistically?)

Demetri Goodson played turnover-free in 27 minutes. He had three assists.

The Pilots, meanwhile, weren’t quite as prolific from 3-point range as they normally are. Stohl made 6 of 9 (one was his last-second desperation toss), meaning the rest of the team was just 1 of 10.  Portland relied on Robin Smeulders’ 24 points, Stohl’s 18, Raivio’s 15 and T.J. Campbell’s eight points and 12 assists. Smeulders had a big night on the low block.

“I thought we came out defending well in the first half, and then we lost Stohl a couple times,” Few said. “He stared us down and does what does – shoot 3s. And we didn’t do a good job on Smeulders in the second half, just point-blank touches right at the rim.”


Few on Harris: “Elias is a tough matchup. I think we could have found him a little more than we did. We’re still kind of learning where to bring the ball and at what time to deliver the ball.”

Olynyk on the final sequence: “I’m thinking (Stohl’s) hit bunch in a row already. I was just hoping for the best, obviously a miss. But we’re always ready to play overtime if it comes down to that.”

Few on GU’s inexperienced roster: “We haven’t had this many (newcomers). We’ve had some pretty exceptional freshman – Blake Stepp, Ronny Turiaf, Cory Violette, Casey Calvary. To have so many, it’s a challenge getting them enough experience to come through this stuff.”

Few on Bouldin: “He was phenomenal.”

Olynyk on Portland: “They’re a great team. They’re going to fight until the end and not give up on anything. We were trying to put them, but they’d hit a couple shots or make a couple of stops. Credit to them.”

Few on the last five seconds: “If we just make the free throws, then it’s not an issue.”



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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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