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—Gonzaga didn’t play its best or cleanest game. The Zags shot a routine 44 percent from the field and a pedestrian 70.6 percent at the free-throw line. They had more turnovers (17) than assists (15). But they did do what winning teams do: Rebound, defend, take care of the ball late, get the ball to the right shooters and hit free throws.
And one other thing that you hear ESPN’s Jay Bilas mention all the time: Toughness. Gonzaga was physical throughout, which led to the rebounding edge, Xavier’s poor shooting numbers and the ability to repel numerous Musketeers rallies.
“That was a real good team that we beat,” forward Sam Dower said, “especially on the road in this atmosphere. This is one of the toughest places to play. We outrebounded them and took what they gave us on offense.”
Dower was pretty much the offense in the second half, scoring 12 points in a 4:15 span.
“We were just thinking, ‘Try not to turn the ball over, run plays at our pace and shoot our shots. We got shots on our terms.” (Haven’t heard that phrase since Steven Gray!)
—Kevin Pangos has had several tough shooting nights, but he always finds a way to impact the game in a positive manner for Gonzaga. Despite making just 3 of 10 FGs (1 of 7 3s), Pangos picked a crucial time to hit from long distance with a trey that restored GU’s lead to seven with 2:30 remaining. Then he made 4 of 6 free throws in the closing seconds.
He countered five turnovers with seven assists and two steals in a team-high 32 minutes. There were times he could have become rattled, as many freshmen would do in similar circumstances, but Pangos seems to keep his cool, adjust and contribute.
—Ditto for Gary Bell Jr. He scored just seven points to go with four rebounds and two turnovers. But his defense on Tu Holloway was exemplary, holding the All-American to 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting, and more importantly, keeping Holloway off the FT line. Holloway, who averages 10 FTs per game, was 1 of 3 at the stripe. He was 13 of 14 at the line while scoring 26 points against GU last season.
And to clarify, at least three of Holloway’s baskets didn’t come against Bell Jr. One was after Holloway picked David Stockton’s pocket in the backcourt. Another was after Holloway pilfered an outlet pass and scored. And another was a three-point play against Mike Hart, who actually played solid defense but was whistled for a foul on Holloway’s drive within 8 feet.
—Xavier’s well publicized fight with Cincinnati resulted in four Musketeers being suspended. Now back at full strength, the Musketeers haven’t been able to recapture what they had game pre-UFC. I mentioned these figures in the game preview: Xavier’s first eight games – 74 points, 61 allowed. During Xavier’s 1-3 mark with the suspensions – 67 points, 73 scored.
Versus Gonzaga: 65 points, 72 allowed.
STATS OF NOTE
—Dower has been in double figures five of the last six games. He had one double-digit scoring game in the first seven outings.
—Dower made his first four 3-pointers this season (two against Xavier) before misfiring late in the second half.
—Nine Zags scored in the first half.
—Robert Sacre played 29 minutes, again with his right thumb taped, and finished with five points and seven rebounds.
—Guy Landry Edi chipped in four points, six rebounds and two steals in 20 turnover-free minutes.
—Marquise Carter didn’t score, missing all three of his shots. Those in-the-lane floaters he made repeatedly last season just aren’t falling yet, but he did contribute three assists.
Few on what he said during second-half timeouts: “We’re ahead. I kept saying, ‘We’re ahead.’ There were three timeouts where they came over with their dobbers down and I said, ‘We’re ahead.’ We were making the right plays and the ball was going to the right spots, with exception of the beginning of the second half and some silly turnovers.”
Dower: “Usually when I make all my shots in warm-ups I have a bad game. Today, that didn’t happen.”
Dower on air-balling an open 7-footer during his white-hot second-half stretch: “I caught it and I thought I was going to be wide open. I just got caught in between (shooting or taking an open path to the hoop) and I ended up flicking it up there.”