I'm on the road with kid duties and I've finally found a cooperative wireless network (signal strength low) so I'll put this day-after San Diego post up as quickly as I can. Wrote it about six hours ago, but haven't been able to post it. Here are the links: Game stories in S-R, San Diego Union-Tribune and S-R photos.
—I spoke to ex-GU assistant and current USD head coach Bill Grier for a few minutes well before tipoff and many of the things we talked about became apparent on the court. Grier said his freshmen backcourt of Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee has played without fear, and that’s what they did against Gonzaga. Grier talked about his concern with his interior players matching up against GU’s bigs and that, too, was an issue on the floor.
Grier emphasized that he likes his young team, their character, their work ethic and he’s seeing progress. It’s evident in the record (seven wins already compared to six last season) and a pair of conference road breakthroughs (wins at Santa Clara and Portland). It was evident Saturday as his Toreros battled from tip to buzzer and made Gonzaga work a 17-point win.
—Anderson, a 5-7 jet at point guard, had eight points, two assists and two steals in the first half. He drove past Kevin Pangos a couple times and finished in the key. He also got swatted a couple times by Robert Sacre, but it didn’t alter his aggressiveness.
Gonzaga adjusted its defense in the second half. Pangos, who tried to pressure Anderson early, gave Anderson more space in the second half and that helped contain his penetration. He had just one shot attempt and one assist in the second half.
“We backed off and the help was a little better,” head coach Mark Few said.
Anderson’s quickness defensively seemed to bother Pangos, who didn’t get a lot of open looks and committed four turnovers.
—Dee is also a quick guard who can get his shot off in a hurry. He didn’t have much luck against a rotation of defenders, primarily Gary Bell Jr., Guy Landry Edi and Mike Hart. Dee made just 4 of 14 shots (2 of 5 on 3s) and finished with 10 points, five below his average.
“We made them take tough 2s,” Bell said.
—Edi made his first start and it likely won’t be his last. He was productive in a season-high 26 minutes and helped speed up GU’s transition game. He played well on both ends of the court, but he drew Few’s ire when he tried unsuccessfully to draw a foul on a lean-in 3-point attempt late in the first half. Edi drew contact but no foul call. Few quickly motioned for Marquise Carter to replace Edi.
(I’m planning a notebook item on Edi for Tuesday’s paper.)
—As mentioned in the game story, Robert Sacre, Elias Harris and Sam Dower combined for 48 points with Sacre and Harris registering double-doubles. For the most part, San Diego tried to defend 1-on-1 in the post and the Zags put up big numbers.
“Rob is one of the biggest post players in the country,” Edi said. “When he plays like that, he gets us to another level. ‘E’ (Elias), too. When they play like that, it’s really hard to stop us.”
Grier said defending GU is a pick-your-poison dilemma.
“We did (double) early,” he said. “We were also worried about the way Pangos shoots the ball. We doubled BYU and they made us pay on the perimeter.”
Added forward Dennis Kramer: “We tried (doubling) at one point, but saw that it didn’t work so we put it off.”
—Not sure why San Diego’s bench was whistled for a technical foul in the second half, but I have a calculated guess. It came shortly after a no-call on Dower’s apparent double-dribble and then a blocking call on Dee prior to Sacre elevating for a dunk. In somewhat of an NBA call, the refs allowed continuation, counting Sacre’s basket and awarding him one free throw. I suspect that was the last straw for the Toreros’ coaching staff.
—I spoke briefly with Ryan Spangler, who was sporting a big wrap on his broken left pinkie. He said his surgery went well and that doctors inserted three screws. No change in the recovery timeline (2-3 weeks).
—Those in attendance were probably wondering the same thing I was wondering after witnessing two big collisions: How did those guys walk away, seemingly unharmed? On the first, Dower was trying to prevent a breakaway layup and landed full force on a Torero under the basket. I thought it was Ken Rancifer, but he didn’t attempt any free throws, according to the official stats. The USD player was shaken up for a few seconds, but popped up and continued playing.
The other was in the second half when Sacre tried to retrieve a pass that was headed out of bounds. He saved the ball, but plowed over a camera man in the process. The gentleman seemed pinned into the base of the first row of seats. Former GU baseball coach Steve Hertz came over and made sure the camera man was OK.
STATS OF NOTE
—Sacre missed his first three shots, probably from a total of 12 feet, before dialing in. He finished 7 of 11.
—Dower was 0 of 5 in the first half but recovered to finish 5 of 11.
—GU, 151st in the nation at 69.3% from the free-throw line, had a good night at the stripe (15 of 20, 75%, its fourth best effort of the season.).
—Other than Dower’s 15 points, GU had only two other points from the bench (by Carter). USD had a 24-17 edge in bench points.
—USD, 14 of 19 on 3s vs. Portland on Thursday, went 5 of 18 against GU.
Few on Harris: “He’s been very active for pretty much the last 6-8 games. He’s posting harder, attacking off the dribble, running the floor better. Sometimes when he’s had problems is when he kind of starts floating and cruising around and he doesn’t play with a purpose. He’s playing with a purpose. And he’s a much better defender this year.”
Dower: “Toward the end of the first half we felt like we let them catch up and they outplayed us. We knew we had to pick it up. I know I played terrible in the first half. I knew I had to pick it up and I tried to do whatever I could to help us out.”
Few: “Those bonehead turnovers … right when we're on the verge of extending (the lead) big. We had a couple of lapses and they made us pay.”
Dower on GU’s balance: “Our guards deserve all that praise (they’ve received). They’re really good, good shooters and teams can’t play off them. But we also have solid bigs as well.”
Grier on playing the top four WCC teams five times already: “We’ve learned we can compete against these teams for stretches, but to beat them there’s things we have to do and sustain for longer periods of time. Part of that is inexperience. But I think they feel they can battle with these teams, but there’s always been a stretch in those games where we have some mental breakdowns — maybe some toughness breakdowns — that allow the other team to make a run at the right time to where we can’t get ourselves back into it.”