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Zag notes

I touched on a variety of subjects -- the Super Bowl, GU's defense, a health update and how closely the Bulldogs follow the national rankings -- in a notebook i just filed for Tuesday's S-R.

Read on for the unedited version.

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

Yes, Gonzaga needs to work on its team defense. Sure, the Bulldogs hope to improve their rebounding.

But really, who’s going to win the Super Bowl?

“Saints, no question,” said center Rob Sacre, whose father, Greg LaFleur, was a tight end with the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1980s, which helps provide context to Sacre’s next comment. “Drew Brees is the greatest quarterback of all time, better than (ex-Cards) Neil Lomax and Jim Hart.”

LaFleur was born in Lafayette, La., played at LSU and is currently the A.D. at Southern University in Baton Rouge. He played most of his career with the Cardinals but did have a short stint with Indianapolis in 1986.

Sacre rooting for New Orleans makes it tough for guard Steven Gray to do the same.

“Secretly I hope the Saints win, but I might have to tell Rob I’m picking the Colts,” said Gray, who was pulling for the Baltimore Ravens but they were eliminated by the Colts.

Head coach Mark Few likes the Colts’ point guard, err, quarterback.

“Your heart goes out to New Orleans, to the city and everything they’ve been through and the year they’re having, but I’m just a huge Peyton Manning fan,” Few said. “How he prepares for games, how he executes during games. He’s as focused a competitor as we’ve maybe seen in the modern era.”

About that defense

OK, back to basketball. Gonzaga’s defense had mixed results against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. For one half in each game, the Bulldogs were torched by the opposing point guard. Keion Bell scored 37 points, 34 in Pepperdine’s 55-point second half. LMU put up 42 in the first half, fueled by Vernon Teel’s 16 points and five assists.

Gonzaga held LMU to 27 points on 32-percent shooting in the second half. GU limited the Waves to 29 points on 37-percent shooting in the first half.

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried but we need to get better,” senior guard Matt Bouldin said. “I think there’s a huge misconception in the public eye that we played all these tough games early and we should roll over these teams. That’s what college basketball is: every night is tough. We played better in the second half against LMU. We played a lot harder.”

Few reiterated that the absence of Gray, who was in foul trouble against the Lions and played just 26 minutes, was a contributing factor.

“He’s shown he’s been pretty darn good when we’ve given him a challenge of going against the opponent’s best player,” Few said.

Healing up

Freshman forward Elias Harris said his tender back is improving.

“I felt it a little bit against Pepperdine, but Saturday it was a lot better,” said Harris, who fell hard on his back in the San Diego game Jan. 16. He said he was “lucky” he was wearing padded, compression shorts against the Toreros, which absorbed some of the impact.

Bouldin said the pain in his right hand, which he banged up in a second-half fall against San Diego, “is lingering but it’s playable.”

Guard Manny Arop was bothered by a 24-hour flu Saturday, but was fine by Monday’s practice.

Pulling rank

The Bulldogs moved up two spots to No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 13 in the Associated Press rankings. That was news to Gray, Harris and Few.

“I have no clue,” Gray said. “I wouldn’t assume it was lower than 10.” Said Harris: “I think between 10 and 15.”

Few had to be told where GU is ranked. When he heard No. 8, he said, “We didn’t play like the eighth best team in America over the weekend.”



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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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