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Day after Air Force

Chasing a rebound, Gonzaga center Robert Sacre (00) parts the way between Air Force guard Taylor Stewart (15) and center Taylor Broekhuis (34) during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. COLIN MULVANY colinm@spokesman (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Chasing a rebound, Gonzaga center Robert Sacre (00) parts the way between Air Force guard Taylor Stewart (15) and center Taylor Broekhuis (34) during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Wash. COLIN MULVANY colinm@spokesman (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Round two. First attempt at my day-after Air Force post vanished before my eyes. So here we go again.

Here are the links: S-R game story, photos. Other links of interest: Butler, two days after losing at GU, toppled Stanford, Saint Mary's lost to No. 6 Baylor, WSU thumped Pepperdine and Portland (visits GU on Wednesday) lost its sixth straight, falling to Nevada. 

Read on.

--One minor fix to my game story: I mentioned Sam Dower’s drive and feed about midway through the article. It actually led to a 15-foot corner jumper from Gary Bell Jr. (not a 3).

--Let’s begin with Robert Sacre, who played 19 ineffective minutes after dislocating his right (shooting) thumb in Wednesday’s practice. The picture above shows the black wrap he wore to brace his thumb, but he was clearly bothered by the injury. He didn’t attempt a shot and at one point was shaking his hand after contact with an Air Force player. He didn’t return when Dower entered about 3 minutes into the second half.

“He dislocated his thumb halfway through practice Wednesday,” GU coach Mark Few said. “He was a warrior tonight. He probably shouldn’t have played, but he put a big brace on and it was really for him hard to catch. We figured we could use him defensively and on the glass.”

Sacre wasn’t having much to do with a discussion about his thumb or his declining production over the last few games. His four lowest scoring games have come in GU’s last four games.

Of his thumb: “It’ll be all right. I’m not too worried about it.” (I could go back and look but I’m pretty sure he said virtually the same thing about his wrist last year, his foot a few years back, etc.)

Of his last 3-4 games: “I don’t know, I just know we’re winning. I don’t really care as long as we’re winning. That’s all that matters to me.”

Of Dower’s performance: “That’s awesome that we have that on the bench because if you have an off night you’re not too worried about it.”

--Gonzaga found the right combination of players when Dower, Bell Jr., Kevin Pangos and Elias Harris were on the floor together for the majority of their decisive second-half run. Dower gave GU inside production and four key offensive rebounds. Harris hit four free throws and had a nice kick-out pass to Pangos for a 3. He also had a putback of a Dower miss. Bell Jr. showed his patience, much like Tuesday’s game, and scored from beyond the 3-point line, in the mid-range and with a nifty 5-footer off the bounce.

“They went from a switching man to a zone, switching back and forth on whether they scored on not,” Few said. “We were a little frozen by it early, but I thought we settled down in the second half. We shot 54 percent (in the second half, got pretty good shots against it.”

Dower made 5 of 9 shots, 6 of 10 FTs. He also finished with three steals, a block and an assist.

“We decided to go four out and let him get catches in there,” Few said. “He did a nice job getting after the offensive boards, getting to the line and he took balls to the basket.”

Said Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds: “He’s a very good player, big and long. He got a lot of stickbacks and we had to foul him. They have so much depth inside and good guards.”

--Reynolds’ team hadn’t played since Saturday so he took a good, long look at the Zags on video.

“I had a little more time between games than normal, so I took their first game and watched it in its entirety and every game in order. I usually don’t have time to do that,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen a team that understands the process better than the one we played tonight. You can see it from game to game, they get better. They have great inside (players), an outside attack and they have some depth.”

STATS OF NOTE

--Pangos played 38 minutes (11 more than the next closest Zags, Dower and Harris) and didn’t have a turnover. By contrast, four Air Force starters logged at least 33 minutes and it probably would have been all five but Michael Lyons injured his ankle 3 minutes into the game.

--All three of Harris’ assists led to Pangos’ 3-pointers.

--Mathis Mönninghoff saw his first appreciable playing time in a while with 5 minutes in the second half. With Air Force’s matchup zone (or man) trying to limit the inside game, Mönninghoff was put in for his perimeter shooting ability, but he missed his lone 3 attempt. However, his rangy 6-7 frame helped on the wing when GU effectively utilized its 1-2-2 zone.

--GU was 20 of 27 at the FT line compared to Air Force’s 10 of 15. Gonzaga has had more FT attempts (often considerably more) in nine of its 11 games. They had the same number (21) as Western Michigan, and fewer attempts (15 vs. 18) against Notre Dame.

For the season, Gonzaga has attempted 306 FTs to opponents’ 162.

--Pangos is back on top as GU’s scoring leader at 14.5 points, followed by Harris at 13.8.

--With games of 12, 10, 9 and 16, Dower’s scoring average has climbed to 7.4. He was at 4.9 after the Michigan State game. Dower’s 8 rebounds tied a career high.

--The undersized Falcons outscored GU 24-22 in point paints, despite running an offense that rarely had a player stationed in the post. Those points came on drives, cuts and putbacks.

--GU’s bench, led by Dower, outscored Air Force’s 25-8.

--Of Gonzaga’s 70 points, 56 were scored by freshmen (Pangos 23, Bell Jr. 10, Ryan Spangler 1), sophomores (Dower 16, David Stockton 5) or first-year Zags (Guy Landry Edi 1). The other 14 points were by junior Harris (12) and senior Carter (2).

QUOTEBOOK

Pangos on Air Force’s defense: “It was different, like a matchup, kind of man and kind of zone. Our game plan was to get it into the bigs, but they did a great job of covering it. When we got the ball inside they were making it difficult for them to score or pass it out.”

Few: “We’ve been doing a nice job these last couple games at the end. Maybe not Arizona but even a little bit there where we’ve made stops and we were very efficient on the offensive end, either scored it or got to the free-throw line. We didn’t take any bad shots and got ourselves extra possessions. That’s all the things you do to win games down the stretch.”

Dower: “They’re a really good team. They’re going to give a lot of teams problems.”

Few on Pangos: “Those are great shots for us to take, every one of them was a good shot. When he lines it up and it leaves his hand, it looks like it’s going in.”




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Jim Meehan





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