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Day after Pepperdine

There's a good reason this post is a little later than normal. I couldn't see the computer screen too clearly (no comments from the peanut gallery). I visited the eye doc today so I'm living in a blurry, light-sensitive world right now.

Onward, perhaps with a typo or two. The links, following GU's 92-75 win over Pepperdine: S-R gamer and photos (by Dan Pelle, highly recommended).

Read on.


—First off, the atmosphere at the Kennel was pleasantly louder, in part because of the return of the Kennel Club. The students are back in school and were out in force basically for the first home game since EWU on Nov. 30. (It was the tail end of Finals Week when LCSC visited on Dec. 16). The crowds have been enthusiastic, especially for the Portland and Oklahoma State games, but the student presence makes an audible difference.

“It’s been a long time,” coach Mark Few said. “I don’t remember having this many games without our students so it was a nice pick-me-up.”

In the second half, with GU sitting at nine 3-pointers and 10 needed for free burgers for ticket-holders, the Kennel Club started chanting, “We want Wendy’s.” So Steven Gray rose up and buried a 3, then acknowledged the student section while running back down court.

After a timeout, the Kennel Club offered, “We got Wendy’s.”

—As mentioned in the game story, the Big Three was too much for Pepperdine. They combined for 62 points, provided an inside-outside attack and probably would have scored 80 if they’d played 30 minutes (Sacre 21, Harris 26, Gray 28).

Sacre had a field day in the lane, finishing from close range on jump hooks with his left or right hand. There was a turnaround jumper, a nifty drop-step and a 17-footer.

“He was really efficient and we did a nice job finding him,” Few said.

Harris had a pair of 3s in the first half and six baskets (including another 3) in the second.

Gray scored at will early for the second straight game. He had eight of GU’s first 10 points, then limped off after an awkward landing trying to reel in a bad outlook pass on the break. The ball actually deflected off an official and Gray tried to adjust his steps to retrieve the redirected ball. On one stride, it looked like he hyper-extended his knee and slightly rolled his ankle.

Gray played for another minute before leaving the court for further examination. He returned with his left knee wrapped, took a couple of Ibuprofen – or something similar – and seemed to play without limitation the rest of the way. He scored 19 points and handed out nine assists. The 19 points equaled his most since hurting his back against Baylor seven games

Gray said the pain originated in back of his left knee.

“I really have no idea what happened,” Gray said of the play. “It’s a little sore.”

Gray knows one thing: he’s tired of seeing the training room.

“If something else happens … I don’t know, I’m going to be pretty upset,” he said.

Gray stayed loose during timeouts and breaks by riding a stationary bike.

Said Few: “I think he’ll be fine. He iced it. We’ll see. He was fine in the second half.”

Twice Gray hit 3s over Mychel Thompson, who got lost on screens. After the shots dropped through the hoop, a frustrated Thompson could only stand with his palms pointed toward skyward.

—For one of the few times this season, GU played a segment of a game without the Big Three on the floor. There have been other exceptions (blowouts and the times when Gray and Harris were battling injuries, obviously), but this time it came in the second half with the game still a bit in doubt.

It was 57-39 when the trio went to the sideline. Pepperdine quickly closed with 57-44, which prompted the return of Harris. GU scored the next four points – all by Kelly Olynyk – and then Gray returned. Gray assisted on the next two baskets and GU’s lead was 66-47.

Sacre re-entered a couple minutes later and had a dunk on another nice feed by Gray.

—Manny Arop was back in the starting lineup. Mathis Keita, who started the last three games, came off the bench and played just eight minutes. Arop had a solid night with nine points, four rebounds and two steals.

Four of the starters seem set (Gray, Sacre, Harris and Goodson). The fifth has rotated between Arop (six starts), Olynyk (four), Mönninghoff (five) and Keita (three).

—Marquise Carter, who has had a rough stretch since coming up big in the Baylor win, played 16 minutes, finishing with five points and three assists. He had a nice lob pass to Olynyk for a layup.

STATS OF NOTE

—Pepperdine became the second straight Gonzaga opponent to shot better than 50 percent. The Waves hit 60 percent in the second half to finish at 52 percent overall.

—The Bulldogs are shooting 40.4 percent on 3-pointers for the season, following last night’s 10-of-18 effort.

—Sacre had three more blocks and moved into solo fourth on GU’s all time list. He has 102 for his career.

—Pepperdine’s bench outscored Gonzaga’s 26-17, but the Zags got some quality minutes from Carter (mentioned above) and Olynyk. The 7-foot Canadian had eight points and a team-high six boards in 17 minutes, adding to his string of solid games.

—Gray had five of Gonzaga’s 10 steals.

—With both teams shooting well (Pepperdine 52 percent, GU 62.5), there weren’t a lot of rebounds to fetch. GU won the boards 27-23, Pepperdine had the better of it on the offensive glass (10-8).

—Gonzaga was 12 of 12 at the free-throw line.

—Gonzaga had 23 assists, its first with at least 20 since LCSC.

—At one point, Gonzaga had made 33 of 49 shots (67.3 percent) and was in range of the school record 71.8 (vs. Saint Mary’s in 1996).

QUOTES

Gray on the Big Three’s big night: “I didn’t really notice until a little later. It just felt good today. Rob was hot from the start and ‘E’ got it going later.”

Sacre on the bench: “That’s best thing about this squad. Guys are coming off the bench and delivering and that’s what will make us successful in long run, when we go for our real big push for the big chip.”

Few on FT shooting: “We’ve shot free throws pretty darn good this year. Rob’s really shot them well, especially for a big and that certainly helps.”

Sacre on what he was more pleased with — his FG shooting or FT shooting: “Free throws, no question.”

Few: “I liked how we came out, especially defensively early. I thought the first group had a pretty good mentality about getting after them and making it tough. They’re an offensively gifted team. They can make plays off the bounce. They can shoot it and add a lot of freedom so sometimes those teams are hard bottle up.”


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