Back with the day-after post from GU's 103-65 victory over Southern Utah. Game story here.
It was a dominating performance and it certainly displayed the Bulldogs' variety of weapons, but, well, there's always a but. In this case, it's the fact that it came against a Thunderbirds team that returned just two starters and was picked to finish 10th in the 11-team Big Sky. And, as GU coaches and players were quick to mention in post-game interviews, a major challenge, West Virginia, is on the horizon Monday night.
Still, Gonzaga got about as much out of this game as possible. The Zags didn't play down to their competition, their intensity level remained high and there were few peaks and valleys, no matter who was in the game.
--We’ll start with the big man, or as the Kennel Club chanted: “Polish Hammer.” Przemek Karnowski’s GU debut was impressive with 22 points in 20 minutes. Add in the exhibition game against Northwest Nazarene and PK has scored 39 points in 37 minutes.
He had a Sam Dower-like stretch in the second half that I mentioned in the game story. He scored nine points in a five-minute span. The most eye-catching thing was that he repeatedly beat the Thunderbirds down the court. He said afterward that he’s dropped 15 pounds since arriving in Spokane 2-plus months ago.
Karnowski and Dower combined for 37 points and it probably would have been 47, but they rushed several shots from point-blank range. PK was 2 of 7 at the free-throw line.
“You see his feet on a couple of those ball screens, some of the down screens showing out,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s got good feet. It’s going to be a week by week process. This will be a big challenge for him on Monday with the physicalness of that game, just the style of play.
“He runs well and the cumulative effect, Sam running, then ‘Shem’ and Sam and Shem again, that helps, it really helps.”
Karnowski and Dower were able to get early post-up position deep in the lane, which was one of former center Robert Sacre’s specialties.
“He’s made huge progress over the last couple weeks,” forward Elias Harris said. “He came over here not very physical at all. Today he looked way better than he did yesterday in practice. I’m looking forward to how he does against a real physical team Monday night.”
--Wing Guy Landry Edi had career highs with 16 points and seven rebounds. Coaches have praised Edi for his development since last season and Edi appears to be more offensive-minded.
Asked what he’s worked on, Edi said, “My effort in rebounding and running the floor better, trying to guard the best player on the other team. My knee is really better now, so I go out and give it my all.”
--GU experimented, mixing and matching personnel at several spots.
Somewhat early on they went with the three-guard lineup that they used quite a bit last year with the 6-2 Pangos, 6-1 Bell and 5-11 Stockton. At times, Mike Hart played the ‘4’, though he had some difficulty defending 6-8, 260-pound Julian Scott.
Dower, who started at center, and Karnowski played together at the ‘4’ and ‘5’. Dower is well suited to play the ‘4’ because he can stretch the defense (his first bucket was a 3-pointer).
It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Kelly Olynyk returns from a three-game suspension for the Old Spice Classic.
“People don’t realize how much better he’s gotten,” Harris said. “He’s going to be another force coming off the bench people don’t know about.”
--Walk-on guard Rem Bakamus’ redshirt season lasted about 35 minutes. He played the final five minutes and delighted the student section with a 3-pointer. Bakamus told me earlier in the week that he would redshirt, but those plans obviously changed.
Bakamus tweeted: RIP Red Shirting, shout out to my good bud (Kyle Dranginis) hooking me up with the trey ball.
STATS OF NOTE
--Gonzaga had 18 assists and just nine turnovers.
--The Bulldogs, despite missing a number of shots from close range, scored 66 points in the paint.
--GU made just 17 of 30 free throws (56.7 percent).
--Southern Utah, when it wasn’t turning the ball over, made 49 percent of its field-goal attempts.
--Drew Barham didn’t play until the final eight minutes. Wearing a mask to protect his nose, broken in practice several weeks ago, Barham had four points, two boards, two turnovers and an assist.
--GU made three 3s in the first 3:25 and three over the final 36:35.
Edi on defense: “We know we can win games by playing great defense, the offense will come along with that. We stayed in the gaps, attacked the ball in the post and came out with a lot of steals.”
Stocktonon newcomers PK and Dranginis: “I feel like these guys are veterans. To me, the way they play they’re so smart, don’t turn it over and make the right plays.”
PK on team’s balance: “I think everybody can play, everybody can score. We’re trying to give our best for 4-5 minutes, next guy comes in. That’s good for us, a good bench. We have to play aggressive and get more rebounds.”
Harris: “Tonight we played a better team than the exhibition game but still did the same things – team ball, shared the ball, make sure everybody touches it and play as hard as possible. That makes life easy when you have good players coming from the bench.”