Well, that was a tough one. Yes, the game, and YES, THE DEADLINE.
Not a big fan of 8 p.m. starts, 11 p.m. deadlines, 33 fouls by the visiting team, 51 GU free throws and post-game interviews that begin at roughly 10:30. I jotted down some notes from Mark Few, talked to Marquise Carter for about a minute and Robert Sacre for roughly 30 seconds. Kelly Olynyk, scheduled to redshirt, wasn't in the locker room when I entered so we'll try to catch him later.
John Blanchette ran down additional quotes so I have more material for the day-after post and Monday's preview of the GU-WSU game. Can't wait — that one starts at 9 p.m.
—Little known fact. The folks at CBS contacted Gonzaga a few years ago about playing in the Carrier Classic. The Bulldogs said they’d love to be involved, but apparently the network decided the Veterans Day game didn’t mesh with its Friday fall programming schedule.
ESPN took the reigns and opted for traditional powers North Carolina and Michigan State. The Bulldogs are hoping for a future invite.
—Junior forward Kelly Olynyk and freshmen Kyle Dranginis and Chris Sarbaugh didn’t suit up last night and the trio is scheduled to redshirt. Those plans could change, depending on injuries, etc.
I’ll revisit this topic, hopefully next week after I get a chance to talk to one or all of those guys. Olynyk’s name is a surprise to some but there’s been discussion of him redshirting for months. It makes sense on several levels. Last night, Robert Sacre played 33 minutes, Elias Harris 31 and Sam Dower 15 (and I’m certain he’ll earn additional time in many games down the road). That’s 79 of 80 possible minutes at the ‘4’ and ‘5’. Freshman Ryan Spangler, the fourth big, didn’t play. How much time would there be for Olynyk, who has already spent two seasons as the third or fourth big averaging 12-13 minutes?
I’m a little surprised about Dranginis. He’s a heady player who shot the ball well throughout his high school career. With wing Guy Landry Edi suspended for eight games by the NCAA – GU is appealing the decision but school officials don’t sound optimistic that the suspension will be shortened – I thought Dranginis might be pressed into duty. Still, Gonzaga has options at wing (Carter, Hart, Mönninghoff, Keita and Edi when he becomes eligible).
—Back to the game. It goes without saying that Gonzaga was out of sync offensively and defensively for large portions of the game. The Bulldogs had a handful of dunks and scored some buckets in transition after EWU turnovers, but points rarely came easily. The half-court offense didn’t regularly produce field goals, but the Zags did get to the free-throw line a stunning 51 times, thanks in part to a size differential that lead to 22 offensive rebounds and 25 second-chance points.
As Marquise Carter tweeted after the game: “Tough game but good win.”
Gonzaga made just 19 of 51 shots (37.3 percent) and 3 of 13 3-pointers (23.1 percent). GU didn’t take full advantage of its free throws until the latter stages. The Zags were 12 of 19 in the first half before finishing 24 of 32 in the second half.
“Not unusual for November and not unusual when you’re playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores out on the perimeter against a team that’s pressuring you and up into you,” coach Mark Few said. “We also shot 51 free throws so that’s not going to be a pretty game in terms of flow. They were trying to play us physical on the ball and in the post, and it was a tough game to get much flow in.”
Defensively, GU lost track of shooters in man, zone and on a couple of perimeter traps. EWU, particularly Collin Chiverton, Cliff Colimon and Jeffrey Forbes, knocked down 13 3s. The Eagles missed a number of 3s late to finish at 44.8 percent, but they were still getting pretty good looks. Fatigue appeared to be a factor, especially for Chiverton, who logged 38 minutes and misfired on 10 of his last 11 shots.
“Wehad to get a lot of looks from the perimeter because we don’t have a post presence,” Eagles’ first-year coach Jim Hayford said. “When you shoot it better from 3 than from 2 it kind of shows you the strength of our team, at least offensively. We had bigs in foul trouble so it made us even more perimeter dependent.
“What I liked is that we executed our stuff against a team that’s traditionally been a good defensive team and it got us the looks we wanted. We felt like we could create some isolations and mismatches.”
I watched a replay in the wee hours this morning and it confirmed what I witnessed live. Most of EWU’s 3s were quality looks. GU went zone fairly early in the first half and EWU swung the ball to Chiverton, who was open as Gonzaga tried to cover three Eagles with two guys out front. On another, Chiverton got away from Gary Bell Jr. Colimon hit a pull-up 3 over Stockton. The Eagles beat the trap at least twice and knocked down 3s. Chiverton nailed another when he was open after a teammate’s drive and dish. Colimon created space for a 3 with a pump-fake on Stockton.
Chiverton’s only FG in the final 11 minutes was a 3 with Hart draped on him 22 feet from the hoop. Forbes hit two 3s from the corner, one created by a drive and dish and one when the zone was slow to rotate.
—That’s why they’re called projected starters. In Gonzaga’s pre-game release Thursday, the tentative starters were listed as Stockton, Bell, Carter, Harris and Sacre. When GU took the floor against EWU, Hart started and Bell came off the bench.
Hart played 29 minutes, all 20 in the second half if the official book is correct. He finished with four points, nine rebounds, three turnovers and a steal.
“We need to get Guy eligible, that will help at that spot,” Few said. “But (Hart) is somebody that we really trust. He’s a smart guy and gives you a heck of a defender – both on the ball and off the ball. He might be more valuable off the ball.”
Spangler, Monninghoff and Keita didn’t play. Stockton played 19 minutes, five in the second half. Pangos played 27 minutes, 16 in the second half. Bell logged 14 minutes, just three in the second half.
—Gonzaga had EWU on the ropes a couple of times, but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow. Late in the first half, Gonzaga was up 35-23 after a Harris 3-pointer, but the Eagles answered, as they did on several occasions, with a big 3 — Colimon’s 3 with 2:55 left. Chiverton made a pair of 3s and Colimon added another with 3 seconds remaining as EWU pared GU’s lead to 38-35.
“That was probably the difference between maybe extending that and putting them away or keeping them in it,” Few said. “They did a nice job making plays, but we also miss two technical (foul) free throws and then turnover-turnover-turnover, and they were of the soft variety, not the aggressive variety.”
—Wondering how good the Eagles would be in the Big Sky if Glen Dean, the team’s best player, decided to stay instead of transferring to Utah? He averaged 13.3 points last season.
—Interesting nights for Bell, Pangos and Carter.
Belllooked, well, like a freshman at times. He had a nifty drive to the hoop for a bucket and drained a perimeter jumper. He also had back-to-back turnovers with a charging foul and when he stepped on the baseline on a drive. He sagged too far off EWU shooters on a couple of occasions and couldn’t recover in time.
He just appeared rushed, hurried at times, understandable for a true freshman making his college debut, but there’s no doubt he’s a serious talent.
Pangos hit 6 of 6 free throws, finishing with 11 points, four boards, one assist and one turnover in a steady performance.
“Kevin did a nice job, he’s a very calming influence when he’s out there,” Few said. “It was (Gary’s) first college game. He did some nice things and there were some other things he needs to just let it happen.”
Carter, as he was in the final 13-14 games last season, was clutch down the stretch. He made a bunch of free throws in the final five minutes and also grabbed three key defensive rebounds. He couldn’t find the range on his field goal attempts (2 of 11), but contributed in other ways with four assists and five steals. He also had five turnovers.
—Mentioned this last season, but Gonzaga gets pretty good production on its inbound plays. Bell’s first field goal, a Hart layup, a Sacre layup and Pangos’ big 3 with 7:50 remaining all came off inbound plays.
STATS OF NOTE
—Gonzaga had 11 assists and 18 turnovers, a ratio it would like to see reversed. The Bulldogs only had three assists in the second half, mainly because they spent the majority of the 20 minutes at the foul line.
—GU’s 51 free throws ranks tied for third in school history. The Zags were 41 of 54 vs. Davidson at the 2009 Battle in Seattle. Gonzaga’s 36 made free throws tied for fourth.
—Sacre made 14 of 18 FTs. Ronny Turiaf (twice), Blake Stepp and Frank Burgess share the school record with 16 in a contest.
—GU led in points off turnovers 12-0 at one point, but trailed 20-15 by game’s end.
—Gonzaga outrebounded EWU 31-13 in the second half, 15-6 on the offensive end. Gonzaga had a 25-5 edge in second-chance points.
—Gonzaga was in the bonus seven minutes into the first half. EWU finished with 33 fouls and five players fouled out.
—After Pangos’ 3 with 7:50 left, Gonzaga only made one more field goal (Sacre’s awkward 6-footer during with 1:25 remaining; he was fouled on the play). Gonzaga was just 7 of 24 on FGs in the second half.
—Sacre, who had four double-doubles last season, finished with 22 points and 10 boards. He was two points shy of his career high (24 vs. Pepperdine, Jan. 13, 2011).
Few on EWU: “They are very experienced. They have a lot of guys that have played a lot and have had a lot of success. I think they showed they really stepped it up over the off-season and it was what I expected.”
Few on the closing stretch: “I think we were successful pretty much on what we did. We missed a bunch of free throws and that probably hurt us on offense. We missed some bunnies, having the ball around the rim a lot, but again Eastern Washington was flying around and making some plays on the ball. They were able to keep it close.”
Hayford: “We’re going to have to learn how to play without fouling so there isn’t a 40 free throw discrepancy.”
Hayford: “I think we earned a little respect, but we didn’t get the win. I want the win.”
Chiverton on team’s foul troubles: “It’s frustrating to see a lot of your players go out of the game and you can’t finish it off like you wanted to. You work so hard during the game and it slips away at the end. We’re a brand new organization, brand new program, brand new coaching staff, new players. We just have to get used to it and learn how to finish games.
“We haven’t really earned anything yet. We got a little bit of respect tonight in Washington, but we’re trying to shock the whole nation.”