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Day after Pepperdine

Greetings from Portland, roughly two-thirds of the way home. I put together my day-after post on the first leg of the trip and you can find it below.

Here's a link to my game story that ran in Sunday's S-R from GU's 63-44 win over Pepperdine. A longer (and unedited) version can be found here.

Elsewhere, here's a recap of Saint Mary's convincing victory over San Francisco, and more here and here. The Gaels are closing in on their first WCC regular-season title since 1997 after winning at Santa Clara on Thursday and at USF on Saturday.

--Let’s start with Gonzaga’s defense, which limited Pepperdine to 27.4-percent shooting. The .4 is notable in that it would have been a season-low for a Gonzaga opponent if not for Loyola Marymount’s 27.3. That came in the first GU-LMU game in January.

Pepperdine made 52 percent of its shots in a 92-75 loss to Gonzaga last month. As mentioned in the game story, Mychel Thompson and Lorne Jackson struggled, finishing just 5 of 27 on field goals, 2 of 10 on 3s. They combined for just 15 points. Jackson had six of Pepperdine’s 12 turnovers.

“Those two had been playing great coming into this, they’ve taken off in league,” GU coach Mark Few said. “Thompson had 25 the other night against San Diego and he played good against Portland (Thursday).”

Taylor Darby, who scored 14 points in Spokane, was in early foul trouble and didn’t score in the first half. He finished 2 of 7 and scored six points while committing two turnovers.

“We did a decent job on him,” Few said. “They were posting their bigs more. They did a nice job with that, that was the one thing hurting us, especially early in the second half. And the offensive rebounding, we had so many in our hands, we just weren’t securing it. Other than that, the initial shot defense was really good.”

--Thompson missed a few open looks, but more often than not his shots were contested. He hasn’t had much success against Gonzaga in his career, averaging just over 9 points and 3 rebounds in eight outings.

Steven Gray opened up on Thompson, followed by Mike Hart, who played extended minutes. On at least three occasions, 5-foot-11 David Stockton ended up defending the 6-7 Thompson, who missed three short- to mid-range jumpers over Stockton.

“I think he just missed shots,” Stockton said. “If you want to say I got stops that’s cool.” What Stockton did do was stay in front of Thompson, making him shoot over the top.

That was part of Gonzaga’s plan.

“During practice we talked about being in a stance and keeping people in front of us,” forward Elias Harris said. “They’re good penetrators, so that was key.”

Few said the short turnaround from Thursday’s game and the fact that Robert Sacre and Gray were battling illnesses didn’t allow time for a complicated defensive strategy.

“We tried to make it hard for (Thompson) to catch and then to see a lot of eyes when he did catch it,” Few said. “Our guys on the ball did a really nice job.”

--Gonzaga has held its last five opponents under 39-percent shooting (San Diego 35.4, Portland 37, Memphis 38.6, LMU 34.5 and Pepperdine 27.4). The Zags are 4-1 in that span.

“We played with a lot of energy on defense and we didn’t let the bigs get many easy touches,” forward Sam Dower said. “We were into the guards and it messed up their offense.”

Pepperdine ranks in the middle of most WCC offensive stats. The Waves were limited to a season-low 42 points by Portland in January. They scored 45 against Gonzaga in the second half of the game in Spokane.

--Hart played nine minutes. The only games he’s logged more minutes this season were in blowouts against Eastern Washington (12) and Lewis-Clark State (10).

“Coach Few hinted I might get a little more run and just to be ready when my name is called,” said Hart, who usually enters as a defensive replacement in the final minute or two of each half.

Hart snagged five rebounds, two on the offensive end.

He was part of a bench effort that contributed 25 points to Pepperdine’s 8. Dower had 13 points and Stockton seven. Mathis Mönninghoff hit a long 3-pointer and Kelly Olynyk added one field goal on a nifty drive and left-handed finish.

“We’re getting great play out of David and we used Mike because he’s such a good defender and he moves the ball at the other end,” Few said.

--Dower continues to bring instant offense when he checks into games. He had 13 points and eight rebounds. Defensively, he blocked two shots and had two steals.

“He’s getting to the point we can really count on him,” Few said. “He’s doing some things defensively that are much better than where he was at a month ago.”

Dower played a season-high 29 minutes. He’s played double-figures minutes in nine of the last 10 games. He had a rough start vs. the Waves, missing his first three shots, including an airball from 8 feet.

“I feel like my defense is coming up and my offense is, too,” Dower said. “Hopefully I keep getting better every day.”

--Gray said he felt much better Saturday than Thursday, but he was still dealing with a bit of the stomach bug. Sacre said he barely ate anything Friday and his first real meal was Saturday’s pre-game dinner.

Both were at the hospital for a couple of IVs on Friday.

“I felt a little better after that,” Sacre said.

Sacre played just 10 minutes, finishing with two points and two boards.

“They were both throwing up Friday,” Few said. “They’re sick. They tried (to play).”

--The Zags weren’t great offensively, but they were fairly efficient. They only made 38.6 percent of their shots, but connected on 15 of 18 free throws. They were 4 of 17 on 3s.

The bright spot was probably the passing. They finished with 17 assists on 22 field goals. Marquise Carter finished with a season-high seven, Gray three and Demetri Goodson and Stockton each had two.

After Gonzaga built a big lead, it was content to work the shot clock when it didn’t have a transition opportunity. On a couple of occasions, Gonzaga demoralized the Waves’ defense by scoring just before the shot clock expired as Dower hit a jump hook in the lane and Carter made a floater from 10 feet.

“Our ball movement was really good and we were knocking down some shots,” Carter said. “I was just trying to get the ball into the post and find shooters, and they were capitalizing.”


--Dower now has nine games with at least 10 points. He’s scored 184 points in 345 minutes. That’s a point every 1.8 minutes. Gray, GU’s leading scorer, averages a point every 2.15 minutes.

--Carter had a packed stat line: 8 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers, 1 block. He played a season-high 37 minutes, two days after playing a season-high 32 minutes and scoring 11 points against LMU.

--Sacre made just 1 of 4 shots. He’s made just 5 of 18 attempts over the last three games and 18 of 49 in the last six games. His field-goal percentage for the season has slipped just below 50 percent. He’s cracked double-figures just once in the last five contests.

--Stockton continues to earn more playing time. He played 24 minutes vs. Pepperdine. He’s played at least 11 minutes in eight consecutive games. In the last six, he’s logged 22, 27, 34, 23, 19 and 24. Goodson’s minutes in the same span: 21, 13, 6, 17, 21 and 15.

--Gray was just 1 of 6 from the field. He’s 10 of 36 in GU’s last three games, two of which he was fighting an illness. He’s made 4 of his last 19 3-pointers.

--Stockton is 24 of 26 from the free-throw line (92.3 percent) this season. He made both of his attempts Saturday.

--Gonzaga has won 20 straight in the Pepperdine series. Of the last 12, all but one was by double digits (91-84 in Spokane last season).

--The Bulldogs committed 10 turnovers, half of their total against LMU.

--Gonzaga has made 50 percent of its shots just once in its last eight games.


Harris on the L.A. area sweep: “It was a pure team effort the whole weekend. We worked together really well and we compensated for Rob and Steven being sick. It’s important for everybody to step up and give 100 percent.”

Few: “We had a good, tough mindset and we had guys step up. Marquise had an awesome weekend and I thought ‘E’ got back to attacking. He was aggressive.”

Carter on Dower: “He always comes off bench and gives us energy. We always look for him to come in and provide us with scoring. We know Big Sam is going to get buckets.”

Sacre on the weekend: “Now we need to get home, get everyone healthy and focus in because Santa Clara is coming down the pipe and that’s a big game for us.”


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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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