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Day after Longwood

The Bulldogs accomplished pretty much all of their objectives last night, pummeling Longwood 92-60, distributing playing time to everyone on the roster and celebrating a no-stress sendoff for seniors Robert Sacre and Marquise Carter.

The links: My game story, Colin Mulvany's photos and  A.P.

(Programming note: All-WCC teams will be announced later today around noon.)

Read on for my day-after post.


—I’m certain I’ve addressed this the last four years since Gonzaga began scheduling a game between the WCC finale and the conference tournament, but every year I’m asked about the rationale.

So here goes again. There are a number of factors. It’s essentially a guaranteed win (USC Upstate 90-40, Cal State Bakersfield 78-59 after leading by 37 at one point, Cal State Bakersfield 96-49 and Longwood 92-60). It’s a chance to play everybody and give the seniors (remember there were five a couple years ago) a chance to start without worrying about the outcome. It creates more of a spotlight on the seniors.

Had GU not scheduled Longwood, it would have faced BYU on Senior Night in a pressure-packed situation. And, as previously mentioned, this practice started not long after Ronny Turiaf’s emotional Senior Night exit in 2005.

“It would be a little worrisome if we had to open (the WCC tournament) on a Thursday,” said coach Mark Few, whose team hasn’t had to worry about that with byes into the semifinals. “One of the main reasons is it’s sometimes easier to get one of these guarantee games in here because it’s not as tough of competition, especially with the independents, compared to November or December. It’s a competitive world.”

Few pointed out that he remembers “Ronny being a wreck. That can be a challenging situation. I’d rather do it this way.”

It’s not without risk (injury, a bit of a hit to GU’s RPI), but it’s worked out pretty much as planned the last four years.

—It was Senior Night, but as usual this season there was a heavy freshmen presence for the Zags. Gary Bell Jr. drilled 6 of 9 3s and Kevin Pangos was 4 of 5 from long distance. Ryan Spangler had his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

I joked with Bell that on Senior Night you’re not supposed to steal the show. Bell just smiled and said, “They were pretty much not guarding me. The coaches kept saying, ‘Keep shooting,’ so that’s what I did.”

Longwood, down to seven players with injuries, defections and suspensions, stayed in zone defense throughout, the primary reason GU hoisted 28 3s (one short of season-high 29 vs. WSU), making 13 (equaling season high vs. WSU).

Spangler was a force inside, making 4 of 8 shots, 4 of 6 FTs and hauling down five defensive and five offensive boards. He ran the floor and scored in transition. On one memorable play in the first half, he retrieved three misses but couldn’t connect on putbacks as his energy level sagged with each attempt.

“I couldn’t get a foul, but that’s part of it,” Spangler said. “I need to work on getting my explosiveness back under me. That’ll come as I get older. It is different playing rather than practicing. I was a little tired.”

—Carter used variations of the phrase “It felt really good” at least three times in a short post-game interview. The senior guard loaded up the stat sheet with 13 points, five assists, three steals, three turnovers and four fouls.

Asked if Monday could be a confidence boost, Carter said, “To be completely honest, I don’t think confidence was ever a problem (this season). I continued to work hard in practice, I just waited for an opportunity. We have really good players who are playing well right now. I can still do the things I was doing last year.”

Few said he hoped the game would help get a couple of struggling players – Carter, David Stockton and perhaps Mathis Mönninghoff – back on track as well as reward Spangler with extended minutes. Carter played well, Stockton had seven points, six assists and two steals. In his previous five games, Stockton had scored five points to go with three assists and nine turnovers. Mönninghoff, who often sees time against zone defenses, hit 1 of 6 3s.

“We got him an extended run and let him play through some things,” Few said of Carter. “We got ‘Mooney’ some run and making shots. Spangs, it’s been hard to get him into games coming back from his (broken pinkie finger) and with the matchups. He showed himself well and that’s good. He’ll be a real option for us at the tournament.”

Carter has fond memories of the Orleans Arena, where he was the tournament MVP in GU’s championship run last season.

“Going back, I definitely think about the times I had there,” he said. “When my number is called I’m going to try to make simple plays and hopefully it works out.”

STATS OF NOTE

—Seconds after the Kennel Club started chanting, ‘We want Wendy’s”, Bell delivered a 3 to give GU 10, the figure required for free grub for those in attendance.

—Spangler had a career high with 12 points.

—Gonzaga racked up 25 assists and committed just 10 turnovers (none resulting in Longwood points).

—Bench points: GU 54-7 (skewed a little by Bell coming off the bench and scoring 20).

—Elias Harris had a couple of dunks on lob passes in the first half, then spent the second half resting and watching from the bench. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he sat for so long, but he enjoyed watching his teammates.

Bell had 20 points in 15 minutes, Pangos 12 in 17.

—Mathis Keita was busy in his 14 minutes. He scored 8 points on 3-of-3 field-goal shooting, had four boards, three assists and two steals. He even managed a smile when he air-balled a free throw. He made his first 3 of the season after four unsuccessful attempts.

QUOTEBOOK

Sacre, addressing the crowd: “Coach Few, we’ve butted heads sometimes, but it’s been great.”

Senior manager Tyler Seth, addressing the crowd: “Thanks for cheering for me. Let’s go kick some something in Las Vegas.”

Spangler, on seniors Sacre and Carter: “I just hope to be like them.”

Few, on the process leading up to Saturday’s tournament game: “We’ll take a day or two off and start gearing up. We’re playing pretty good. Obviously there are a lot of good teams down there and we want to protect our championship from last year.”

Few, on Pangos and Bell: “Those two young guys played limited minutes and were pretty efficient.”

Spangler, on the health of his hand: Hand: “I go back in a week for one last checkup, but it’s on the right track.”

Bell, on whether GU is more motivated after failing to win the regular-season title: “Yeah, I feel like we’re playing really well and we have to keep pushing for the conference tournament.”


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