Good late morning. You're getting a quicker, maybe shorter day-after post than usual, for dad reasons.
—The last 5-6 games are the closest, by far, the Bulldogs have come to a steady starting five/rotation this season. It has stabilized since the insertion of Marquise Carter as the fifth starter five games ago at a wing position where Manny Arop, Mathis Mönninghoff and Mathis Keita each had taken turns at starting.
At the other wing spot, some of the rare minutes when Gray isn't on the floor have gone to Mike Hart of late.
Carter has been instrumental in GU’s six-game WCC winning streak. He had 38 points in GU’s two home wins. Prior to that he had at least seven points in three of the other four conference games. His versatility – passer, defender, rebounder, ball-handler – has helped at both ends of the floor. He’s played between 32 and 38 minutes in each of the last four games, leaving little, and in some cases no, time for Mönninghoff, Arop and Keita. Monninghoff is getting the first crack off the bench, mainly to try to stretch the defense. He did so with a 3s in each of the previous two games, but was 0 of 2 from distance vs. USF.
At point guard, David Stockton is playing the majority of the minutes, but a trend recently has seen Stockton and Demetri Goodson on the floor at the same time for stretches.
At post, Sam Dower continues to emerge and Kelly Olynyk appears to have emerged from a slump in the last couple of weeks.
—Dower’s rise has been timely in that Sacre is struggling over the last seven games. Sacre was scoreless last night. He has reached double digits just once in that span. His scoring average has dipped from 14 points to 12.3. He’s being doubled most of the time, but that’s happened before. Earlier he seemed to be making quicker decisions and was still getting good looks. Lately he’s been more hesitant and the double teams have been more effective.
—Dower is a force at the offensive end, but one sequence stood out when I watched a replay of the game this morning. GU had jumped ahead 19-15 and Dower toed the 3-point line for a shot with the crowd ready to burst. He missed, but at the defensive end, here’s what happened:
Dower helps Stockton on a high screen to steer Cody Doolin wide; Dower returns to his man, then leaves to help Gray, whose man penetrates to the right elbow; the ball is kicked to Green on the wing and he gets past Mönninghoff; Dower helps and stops the drive; the ball is kicked out to Doolin on the wing and then to Caloiaro in the corner; his pump-fake gets Harris in the air; Dower helps but falls for Caloairo’s pump-fake; Caloairo dishes to Raffington, who goes to the rim; before he can get the shot up Dower recovers just enough to strip the ball and it goes off Raffington for a turnover.
Dower had four rebounds and a blocked shot in 21 minutes.
—Gray has been putting up points, but it’s taking more shots to do so. He was 7 of 18 (3 of 9 on 3s) last night. He’s 21 of 64 in the last five games. On 3s, he’s 9 of 34.
In those five games, he’s scored 12, 15, 7, 14 and 19 points.
—The second half Saturday was one of the better ones of the season for Gonzaga (same goes for Thursday's second half). Clean offensively, better shot selection, ball movement. Solid defensively, adhered to a halftime adjustment to refrain from helping, especially to prevent corner spot-up shooters open looks (that was an issue in the first half).
“We were pretty darn good defensively and that’s a very good offensive team,” coach Mark Few said. “They can really drive it at you, put heat on you with the drive and get to the free-throw line.”
STATS OF NOTE
—Only six players scored, a rarity for the Zags. Nine scored in Thursday’s win.
—GU had a 12-4 edge in second-chance points in the first half. The Zags had nine offensive boards in the first 20 minutes, 10 for the game.
—USF’s Raffington had five turnovers and PG Michael Williams had four.
—Gonzaga has only had four games with single-digit turnovers. The Bulldogs’ best assist-to-turnover plus margin was 16 (27 assists, 11 TOs vs. LCSC). They were plus-12 against the Dons in the first meeting and plus-9 Saturday.
—David Stockton’s assist-to-turnover ratio is now a team-leading 2.04. In conference, his number soars to 3.88. In the WCC, Carter is at 1.93 and Goodson at 1.88.
—After a shaky start defensively for most of the first half of the WCC season, GU has turned it around, limiting conference foes to 39.8-percent shooting.
Few on GU working inside out: “There was a lot of traffic in there. They were collapsing down pretty hard and ‘E’ did a nice job of relocating and he found Steven on one (perimeter shot). We moved the ball a lot better in the second half.”
Dower on Carter: “When he scores, he can score in bunches. He’s done that two games in a row. It’s good to have a guy on your team like that.” (Dower, of course, has done the same thing in several games).
Dower on the defense: “They’re pretty good at spreading you out, a lot of ball screens. We’re not used to playing so many ball screens. We had to figure out how to guard that and we did.”
Gray on the defense: “Just controlling the bounce. They got a lot of things going into the paint, they had something like six or seven and-ones (in the first game). We’re trying to make them finish tough twos and getting out and contesting those 3s.”
Gray on the showdown with Saint Mary’s: “We have a big week coming up. That’s what we wanted, everything in our hands and have it in our control. That’s a great feeling.”