Day after Clemson

Back with a day-after post following the Zags' grind-it-out 57-49 victory over Clemson at the Old Spice Classic. Next up is Oklahoma, which was stout defensively in a 68-61 win over UTEP and showed more polish offensively than Clemson.

There were times when it was as hard for Gonzaga to score as it was for ex-Zag Jeremy Pargo to get into the locker room for a post-game address to the team. (He had a pass, but it took a brief meeting of arena security before Pargo was allowed to see the team.).

Here are the links: S-R game story, A.P. gamer and Orlando Sentinel first-day wrap-up (quotes Huggins about possible GU-West Virginia rematch. Huggins, by the way, wouldn't allow his players to wear WVU practice gear following the 84-50 loss to Gonzaga last week). Football is king in Oklahoma and the Sooners have a date with Oklahoma State on Saturday, so no byline story from the Daily Oklahoman.

More below.

--Kelly Olynyk’s first action since the 2011 season began with a blocked shot. And then another. It wasn’t Olynyk blocking shots, but Clemson rejecting the 7-footer’s attempts in the paint. He shrugged those off and went on to play 24 minutes, score 13 points and grab three rebounds.

“It was a little different,” Olynyk said. “They’re real high-level athletes and the coaches drilled it, but sometimes film doesn’t do justice. It was kind of like an awakening.”

Olynyk missed the first three games due to a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, but he’s obviously been practicing well of late and made the most of his redshirt season. He started in place of Sam Dower.

“I wasn’t expecting a lot of minutes,” Olynyk said. “I was just out there trying to play and do what I’ve done the last year and half when I was sitting out, try to play my game.”

The lineup changed again at the start of the second half, with Dower replacing Guy Landry Edi as GU went big with three interior players.

“The depth definitely helps us at the end,” Olynyk said. “Being able to bring guys off the bench repeatedly is a huge factor and an asset. When they got a little frantic, things started to open up.”

Clemson coach Brad Brownell made several references to GU’s depth and versatility in his post-game comments.

“Mark (Few) has the luxury to go big, small, play regular, play guys that can shoot, play guys that can’t shoot but are athletic and fast and defend, so many things they can do,” he said. “I think that’s what makes them really good.”

--Along those versatility lines, Gonzaga showed it can win a ‘grinder’ game after opening the season with three runaways.

“It was a very good win for us,” Few said. “We haven’t been in a grinder yet. We need to experience that and we need to experience being successful in an environment like that when a lot of things weren’t going well for us. Clemson D’d us up, kind of shut down our transition game and got us to stand around on offense. Fortunately, we made some plays. David (Stockton) made a lot of great plays in the second half.”

--GU’s shooting percentage climbed throughout the second half and nearly reached 50 percent overall (48.9). Clemson struggled from the perimeter and finished at 31 percent, just 27.6 percent in the second half.

“We just executed the game plan,” Stockton said. “We knew they were going to take a lot of tough shots and they were going to get a lot of rebounds. We had to box out and hold them to one shot and just play solid defense.”

Gonzaga scored 83, 81 and 83 points while winning the 2008 Old Spice.

--Stockton was a difference maker, though much like Olynyk and most Zags, his night didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts. The official stats only list him with one turnover, but I seem to recall two, one with about 14:30 left in the first half and another four minutes later when he tried to make a long-distance pass to Przemek Karnowski, who was surrounded by Tigers.

Stockton, though, got Gonzaga’s offense untracked after roughly 27 stagnant minutes (it was 33-all with just 12:30 remaining). He finished with seven assists, six as GU pulled away in the latter stages.

“He very adept at those (passes into tight windows) and he’s not afraid,” Few said. “His play probably won us the game. It certainly broke the game open.

“And he’s the same way on defense, kind of a river-boat gambler. A couple times it worked, a couple times it didn’t. I’d like to just have the positives on offense and eliminate the negatives on the other end. Again, he made great plays; that’s what he can do.”

Until Stockton’s passing display?

“We just had no flow,” Few said. “Clemson’s defense is responsible for that, but we were responsible for not putting ourselves in movement and getting the ball moving and getting to the second or third option. We were kind of shutting down after one option.”


--Gonzaga, which forced 68 turnovers in its first three games, was unable to turn over the Tigers. They had just eight. Gonzaga, with 38 steals through three games, had only 3, none by the guards.

--GU again struggled at the FT line (9 of 15), but made 6 of its last 8 attempts.

--Clemson’s bench outscored GU’s 27-13. However, as Brownell pointed out, his Tigers wore down in the second half as GU’s bench took a toll late.

--The Bulldogs made only 2 of 11 3s (Edi and Pangos connected but were 2 of 7 combined).

--Olynyk was 5 of 9 from the field. His first two shots were blocked. One of his second-half attempts appeared to be goal-tended but it wasn’t called.

--For the first time this season, a GU player logged at least 30 minutes. Three Zags did so (Pangos 37, Harris 32, Gary Bell Jr. 31).



Few, on Oklahoma: “They looked really good, extremely athletic, very quick. Their pressure is formidable. They were able to make a lot of shots, they looked skilled, nice jump shooters. Lon (Kruger, OU coach) always has a great plan.”

Stockton, on Clemson slowing GU’s transition game: Transition: “Their guards pick up right away, try to block a lot of the outlet passes. Coach said, ‘If we’re bunched, throw it to the ‘2’ and the ‘2’ would bring it up.”

Stockton, on the offense: “I think we just settled down, took our time and let the game come to us. That’s when those cuts were wide open. They were probably there in the first half but we were so frantic we probably didn’t see them.”

Brownell, on his offense: “I didn’t think the shots in the first half were as good as the second. The funny thing is we shot worse in the second half when our shots were better. We had a couple that seemed like they rolled around and fell out at the end. That’s basketball. That’s why we try to guard as hard as we do because there are days when you’re not going to shoot it well.”

Few, on how Gonzaga handled a close game: “We were good, not great. Probably the best thing we did was string together some stops. We had a silly turnover at the end (by Dower), but by and large we got a good shot or got to the free-throw line.”

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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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