The words of warning have been issued and they finally came true last night. LMU, one of the teams outside the Big 3 of Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU, rose up and smacked the Cougars in Provo last night. It probably won't be the last time the top three absorb a loss from one of the upstarts.
Gonzaga avoided a similar fate, dismissing San Francisco 74-63. Still, it's apparent USF has the weapons to give the conference frontrunners problems. GU led by 20 points, but USF rallied to make it fairly competitive. And the Dons did it with none of the regulars having a particularly good night, particularly at the offensive end.
Here are the links: Meehan game story, Blanchette column, Anderson photos (several examples of the scraps Sacre encounters every game). More on BYU's loss, Saint Mary's win and San Diego's three-point barrage against Portland. USD visits Gonzaga on Saturday.
Read on for more in my day-after USF post.
—We begin with Guy Landry Edi, who had his best outing of the season, which is still pretty young for him. He missed the first eight games, serving an NCAA suspension, so this was only his 10th game. At the outset, it was clear USF had no intention of guarding Mike Hart on the perimeter. Hart nearly air-balled his first attempt from 3, then declined to take another open 3.
That brought Edi off the bench and the Dons didn’t change their defensive approach against the 6-foot-6 forward. He hit an open 3, then another on a nice feed from Elias Harris, and then scored on a lay-in, set up by a nice pump fake from the 3-point line. He drove uncontested for the bucket and an irritated USF coach Rex Walters called for a timeout.
“I just took advantage of the time the coaches gave me,” Edi said.
Edi played quite a bit of ‘4’, minutes opening there with Ryan Spangler out (broken finger) and Sam Dower unable to get untracked last night. The matchup was often favorable for the smaller Edi. USF’s ‘4’ is 6-8 Angelo Caloiaro, who operates like a ‘3’ mainly on the perimeter.
“Guy comes in and brings lots of energy,” center Robert Sacre said. “He’s that high flyer that we need.”
Edi’s effort Thursday follows a sequence of games where GU has received a sizable lift in WCC games from a bench player not named Dower, Stockton or Carter. Mathis Keita provided great minutes vs. LMU and Mathis Mönninghoff knocked down three 3s vs. Pepperdine). Mönninghoff also hit a first-half 3 last night.
—Sacre was all smiles in the locker room. He was probably all bruises after drawing a number of fouls inside as he collected 14 points and six rebounds, his best game since going for 13 and five against Portland.
Sacre had three dunks, got the free-throw line nine times and added a block and a steal.
“I guess so,” Sacre said, when asked if his thumb (dislocated nearly a month ago) was feeling better. “Thumbs up. I still have a little rehab, but we’re all right.”
Combined with Edi’s production and Harris’ 14 points, six boards, three assists and two steals, GU had the better of it inside.
—The Dons are a challenge to guard. They spread the floor and guards/forwards put their head down and drive, trying to create shots for themselves or teammates. It worked early as USF got a number of kick-out 3s (five in the first half), but Gonzaga did a better job defensively as the game progressed. If not for a series of GU turnovers in the second half, the Dons probably would have scored in the mid 50s (12 USF points in the second half came off Gonzaga turnovers).
GU finished with 14 steals, four by David Stockton and three by Kevin Pangos. USF had 19 turnovers.
“They switched 1 through 5 on ball screens,” Caloiaro said. “A lot of times we’d get a 1 against a 5 or a 1 against a 4 and we’d try dribble penetration, but they did a pretty good job defensively.”
USF heated up late to finish at 42.3-percent shooting.
STATS OF NOTE
—Kevin Pangos clogged the stat sheet again. He missed his first four shots, three from 3-point range, before hitting a 3 with 5:40 left. He quickly struck for 10 points before the end of the half, including a nice floater in the lane with a couple seconds left that staked GU to a 41-32 lead.
He had a team-high seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. He played a season-high 38 minutes.
—David Stockton also made a big impact in his 25 minutes. He threaded one pass to Sacre in traffic for a bucket. He finished with two steals, two boards, two points and the hustle play of the night. After missing a runner in the lane he sprinted back down court and forced a turnover as the Dons tried to convert in transition.
—GU won the glass 36-27.
—The Zags made 14 of 18 second-half free throws to finish 23 of 32 (72 percent). USF was just 12 of 21 at the stripe.
—Other than Edi’s 3 of 4, Gonzaga was just 2 of 9 from long distance.
—Nothing went right for Dower, who had five turnovers in 12 minutes. He was called for two offensive fouls, one a mystery call that brought loud jeers from the crowd.
Few: “I thought our defense was really good. For the most part we got a lot of deflections, got in the gaps. They’re a hard team to play against. They spread you out and bounce it at you.”
Few on Sacre: “Their big guy (Blackwell) is a tough matchup, very strong just like Rob, and I thought Rob and ‘E’ did a good job engaging and playing through physical contact.”
Few on the return of the students: “It’s been a long time. In my 23 years here I don’t remember this long of a break. I think it’s great for our guys. They’ve been here most of the time by themselves and it’s been like a ghost town.”
Sacre on San Diego: “The coaches get really intense about it and we have to try to match their intensity.”
Few on San Diego: “They have some young guards that are really starting to play well. Obviously (ex-Zag) Billy (Grier) is a great coach and nobody knows us better than him. You just can’t take a night off in this league. LMU wins by 14 at BYU, I think that tells you the quality of some of the other teams. You have to bring it every night.”