Gonzaga took care of business and an outmanned Pepperdine squad 73-45 last night at the MAC. Here's my game story and here are other links of interest: BYU outlasted LMU in Los Angeles and Rob Jones scored 31 points to lead his current team Saint Mary's past his former team San Diego.
While Gonzaga has a day to prepare for Santa Clara, we took an Internet-plagued morning to prepare a day-after Pepperdine post. Read on for more.
—Well, the atmosphere inside the MAC last night — with a late-arriving crowd, few-students-in-the-building and an offensively-challenged opponent – was pretty subdued. It probably didn’t help the volume level when GU raced in front 8-0 before many had settled into their seats.
But the Zags seemed to play with pretty good energy and, after Pepperdine pulled within 15-12, controlled the rest of the game, leading by as many 35 at one point. Only one more game (Santa Clara on Saturday) with the students on break.
—I’ve seen several times elsewhere Gary Bell Jr. being referred to as a defensive specialist. He’s certainly a fine defender, probably one of the best among true freshmen in the country, but that label seems to short-change Bell Jr., who has an all-around game that may be more complete than any player on GU’s roster.
Bell Jr. can handle the ball, distribute, penetrate and finish on the break. On a team with balanced scoring, he’s averaging nearly nine points a game, shooting 41.2 percent from 3 and 73.3 percent at the line (one of GU’s better FTers).
“He’s made big shots for us all year,” head coach Mark Few said. “Those are shots we want him to take; those are good shots for our team. He’s really been shooting the ball well in practice and games.”
Bell Jr. scored a season-high 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including three 3s.
—Mathis Mönninghoff has only played 69 minutes this season and 17 of those came last night. The German sharp-shooter buried 3 of 4 3-pointers and finished with nine points, the same total he had in his first 52 minutes of action.
Few turned to Mönninghoff when GU’s perimeter shooting went south against Pepperdine’s zone. Mönninghoff hit a trey to snap GU’s string of six consecutive misses from beyond the arc. He added a pair of 3s in the second half, the last giving Gonzaga 10 for the game and fans free grub from a burger chain.
“It’s pretty tough, but I’m ready every game,” Mönninghoff said of his sporadic playing time. “I’m waiting for my minutes and that’s all I can do right now. I’m practicing pretty good right now, shooting my 3s. The time will come.”
Few has said often that there isn’t a ton of separation from 1-12 on Gonzaga’s roster, but it was difficult to go 10-11 deep with numerous close games in the nonconference. Two WCC blowouts have allowed Few to play everybody considerable minutes.
“He’s made strides in his game defensively and on the glass,” Few said of Mönninghoff. “He can really stroke it. If teams are going to sit in zone for that long, certainly he’s going to see minutes and he can help.”
Mönninghoff has attempted 18 shots, 16 of those are 3s. He’s made 6 (37.5%).
—The Waves, in part due to injuries to guard Lorne Jackson and wing Dane Suttle Jr., have some offensive limitations. They are a solid defensive team (61.5 ppg allowed), but have only cracked 70 points five times in 15 games. They entered Thursday’s game averaging 60.8 points per game and scored just 39 against UCLA, 45 against Saint Mary’s and 49 in a win over Northern Arizona.
Guard Keion Bell, one of the top scorers in the WCC, transferred to Missouri after being suspended a couple of times last season. He’ll be eligible for the Tigers next season.
“We don’t miss Keion at all, that’s not even a thought,” head coach Marty Wilson said. “We know we’re going to be limited. We knew that from Day 1. In terms of injuries, they’re part of the game and we’re not going to use that as an excuse. Our young guys have to get better. We know that it’s going to be a process.”
STATS OF NOTE
—Gonzaga scored eight points in the first two minutes and nine over the next 10-plus minutes.
—Kevin Pangos missed first four shots (three 3s) before striking for six quick points late in the first half. He finished with 11 points and made 2 of 7 3s.
—Pretty good stat line for Bell Jr. at half: 14 minutes, 12 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 0 turnovers.
—Four Zags were in double figures with 17 minutes left in the second half.
—GU won the boards, 41-37. The Waves had an 18-17 edge at halftime.
—Gonzaga had nine turnovers – none by the primary ball-handlers. The miscues were committed by Mönninghoff (4), Robert Sacre (2), Guy Landry Edi (2) and Elias Harris (1).
—Pepperdine had just four assists and 20 turnovers.
—In 14 games, Gonzaga has had just one player foul out: Sacre, vs. Illinois, and all five fouls came in the second half.
Few: “We’ve had balanced scoring all year. I don’t think we’ve played a team that played 35, 36, probably 38 minutes of zone. We moved the ball and got the shots we wanted.”
Sam Dower on defending Pepperdine’s bigs: “We worked really hard on not letting them duck in on us. We fronted and worked on getting around the duck-ins and it showed tonight on the court.”
Bell Jr. on facing Santa Clara guards Kevin Foster (18.1 ppg) and Evan Roquemore (14.5 ppg): “A big challenge. Kevin is a big-time scorer and I’m probably going to guard him. I just have to get ready.”