Good afternoon from sunny L.A. Travel went fairly smoothly until that 40-person line at the Hertz counter, but we've had some time to put together a day-after Sant Mary's post, following the Gaels 83-62 runaway over the Bulldogs on Thursday.
Read on for more.
--The question after a blowout win/loss like Thursday’s typically comes from both angles: Were the Gaels’ that good? Were the Zags that bad? Answers from a partially restricted view on press row (four 10-year-old boys standing 98 percent of the game) inside cramped, toasty McKeon Pavilion: Yes, and yes.
The Gaels added Gonzaga to their list of lopsided wins – that’s four in five WCC games, with San Diego the only foe to keep it close (78-72). They’ve established themselves as the team to beat with wins over BYU and GU. It’s business as usual to defend your home court. What makes SMC the clear frontrunner is that they dusted Gonzaga and BYU, and there was nothing fluky about either decisive win. What has to concern Gonzaga the most is that SMC ruled at both ends of the court. That’s not a simple fix. And, contrary to previous losses to Illinois and Michigan State, it wasn’t just a one-man, career-game that did in the Zags (you’ll recall MSU’s Draymond Green, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard).
Matthew Dellavedova was stellar and approached his career high, but he’s been doing similar work for 2½ seasons. He’s more prominent this season because he initiates the offense nearly every play with the graduation of reigning WCC player of the year Mickey McConnell. The depth of the supporting cast was impressive, particularly the interior work of Brad Waldow (17 points, 10 boards) and Mitchell Young (12 points, 17 minutes)
If last season taught WCC followers anything, it’s that the standings can change dramatically from January to February and the conference champion will likely need a key road breakthrough or two without slipping up in games it should win. A year ago the Zags and Gaels won on the other’s home floor and Saint Mary’s dropped a key road game in San Diego to open the door for GU to earn another WCC title.
--Saint Mary’s in recent weeks has cultivated additional offensive weapons, primarily Jorden Page, Stephen Holt and Brad Waldow. Two of those three torched GU, Holt with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Waldow with 17 points and 10 boards (four offensive). Waldow, who scored 12 points in the first five games, has had at least eight points in six of the last seven. Wing Clint Steindl recently returned from injury and he added a pair of 3s.
Gonzaga wasn’t in too bad of shape late in the first half. It was tied at 29, but Dellavedova’s mid-range jumper over Robert Sacre started an 8-0 run as SMC took a 37-29 halftime lead. The Gaels scored at will in second half -- inside, outside, putbacks and particularly after GU turnovers. Gonzaga had a respectable 12 turnovers, but seven of those came in the second half and SMC converted them into 14 points.
Chew on these second-half numbers for the Gaels: 16 of 29 FG (55.2%), 9 of 11 FT (81.8%), 12 assists, two turnovers. Gonzaga had been on a defensive roll the last eight games, but it had little success against the Gaels and even abandoned its man-to-man for a stretch in the final 20 minutes.
“We could never get consecutive stops,” GU coach Mark Few said. “We went to zone and got a couple of stops.”
It started with Dellavedova, who was 10 of 16 from the field, 5 of 6 from 2-point range, 5 of 10 from distance. As advertised, he operates mainly off ball screens out front, finding shots for himself or freeing teammates with his penetration. His shooting range extends to roughly 24 feet, which opens up additional space.
“He’s good at using ball screens,” said Gary Bell Jr., who has had a great sequence of defensive efforts, but was unable to slow Dellavedova. Even when Bell forced Dellavedova into taking tough shots, the Aussie guard still put the ball in the hole. “It’s something I need to work on,” Bell said.
“He knows what you’re doing on the ball screen, makes the right read and manipulates you,” Few said. “In the first half, he had to hit some tough shots, some one-foot runners. In the second half, he got loose for a couple of 3s.”
--At the other end of the floor, Gonzaga got production from Elias Harris (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Pangos (12 points, 4 assists) and very little else. Sam Dower scored eight points (six from the FT line) and five boards. Bell made a pair of 3s.
The Bulldogs wanted to pound the ball inside, but they had little or no luck, unless the ball went to Harris, who was 8 of 14 from the field. Gonzaga’s points came grudgingly; SMC got quality looks on virtually every possession.
“We didn’t have a lot of action going, we weren’t getting multiple action on our possessions, ball movement, multiple screens and the posts weren’t ducking in as hard as they have in the past. We had been doing a nice job with that so far (this season),” Few said. “They outplayed us.”
--Sacre’s recent slide deepened Thursday. He missed his first five shots. He wasn’t able to carve out space for post touches close to the basket. His catches and moves were often in the 7-12 foot range, which doesn’t play to his strengths. When he did get the ball deep in the lane, he wasn’t able to finish. On one attempt, he had his shot rejected below the rim, facing three defenders.
As mentioned in the game story, Dower started in place of Sacre in the second half and it’ll be interesting to see if the sophomore gets the start Saturday against LMU. Sacre came in and scored four points (2 of 4 FT and a putback dunk) in a quick span, but he spent most of the half on the bench. He played five minutes.
After starting the season with seven games with at least 15 points, Sacre has reached double figures in just three of the last nine. His highest point total in that span is 13. Sacre has been dealing with a thumb injury for weeks – he dislocated his right thumb in practice prior to Air Force game – but I don’t believe his thumb was taped yesterday.
His scoring average has plunged to 11 points per game. He averaged 16.4 points through the first seven games.
STATS OF NOTE
--GU was outrebounded for just the fourth time this season. SMC won the glass 36-33.
--Gonzaga didn’t have a steal in the game. The Gaels committed just five turnovers. GU has had at least four steals in 14 of 16 games.
--Bench points, another GU strength, was negated by the Gaels. It was 23-23 in bench points.
--Gonzaga made 7 of 15 3s, paced by Pangos’ 3 of 6 and Bell’s 2 of 3.
--Marquise Carter made his first 3-pointer since the season opener. He was 1 of 13 on 3s entering the game.
--SMC’s 46 second-half points was the second most against GU in a half (WSU had 49 in the second half). Gonzaga has only yielded three 40-point halves this season (llinois put up 44).
--Pangos has scored in double figures in nine straight games.
FEW ON WALDOW: “He hadn’t done that, but he did on us. Twenty-nine points out of the two 5s.”
FEW ON LMU SATURDAY: “That’s a tough, hard-nosed, athletic team that I think has as much talent as anyone in the league. They’re licking their chops at a Gonzaga team coming in off a loss. We’re going to have to compete a lot better than we competed tonight.”
BELL: “I felt we played hard, but they had some runs and we didn’t answer like we’re supposed to.”
HARRIS: “We lost that game, it’s over now. We have to get ready for Saturday and bounce back. All the mistakes that happened were just us, not competing hard enough, not playing hard enough. We can change that.”
HARRIS ON SMC: “They’re definitely one of the better teams in WCC, I don’t know if you could compare them to Michigan State. They outhustled us, they outcompeted us.”
SMC COACH RANDY BENNETT: “We got stops. We didn’t give them easy baskets and we were able to take away their inside game.”
BENNETT ON ZAGS: “I think this team is better than the one last year. Going into this game I thought this is one of their better teams in a while. We played well. We played at a high level.”
BENNETT ON STOPPING SACRE: “We limited his touches and tried not to let him get the ball in the spots he wanted it.”
BENNETT ON FANS STORMING FLOOR: “They want to have fun. That’s great. They are what makes this a tough place to play. That’s respecting Gonzaga. It surprised me they did it.”
DELLAVEDOVA: “We definitely defended well inside. We worked really hard on our defense. It’s a really big rivalry game. We’re happy to get a win and keep it going in conference.”