Coffee consumed, now able to move forward with my day-after Loyola Marymount post, followed by driving a couple of hours and writing a GU-San Diego preview. Had a nice visit with USD coach Billy Grier on Thursday, just before leaving for the LMU game.
Read on for more on GU's 88-43 win over LMU.
—Come to think of it, there’s not a whole lot to add to Gonzaga’s dominating performance last night but we’ll expand on a few topics, starting with Gary Bell Jr.
Much like back-court running mate Kevin Pangos earlier this season, some were wondering if Bell had lost his shooting eye or was in the midst of a sophomore slump. You’ll recall Pangos had a tough stretch before erupting for seven 7s against Baylor (he’s now at 43.6 percent on 3s for the season).
Bellhad a similar explosion last night, making 5 of 7 3-pointers.
“Just open 3s and playing with confidence,” shrugged the unassuming Bell, who acknowledged extra shooting sessions three times a week with assistant coach Ray Giacoletti.
His coaches and teammates kept telling him to shoot when he was open.
“We have the utmost confidence in him,” Olynyk said. “He’s a great shooter, he hit the game-winner at Oklahoma State. We’ve been looking for him and telling him to keep shooting. He had a game tonight and hopefully he can run with it.”
Belland GU’s perimeter players had ample opportunities. LMU played a ton of zone defense.
“I’ve never seen them play zone in any of their prior games,” coach Mark Few said, “but they went zone and our guys did a good job of handling it. We had 24 assists on 31 baskets, so we really shared it.”
Drew Barham, GU’s designated zone-buster, kept a close eye on that zone.
“I was happy,” he said. “After Gary hit his second 3 I was thinking they’d pull out, but they stayed in it.”
—Barham’s and Sam Dower’s 13 points led a 47-point bench effort. David Stockton had seven points, seven assists and three steals. Przemek Karnowski had seven points and eight boards. Kyle Dranginis had seven points.
“This allowed us to really show our depth,” Few said, “and really give some guys who have deserved extended run to get an extended run because we were able to extend the lead.”
The bench, led by Stockton, Dower and Barham of late, is getting more chances with GU winning by double figures in four of its last five games.
“To be honest with you I think we’re getting better,” Few said. “We’ve added Drew now, in select times and situations that’s helped us. Sam was kind of sick and struggling in early January and he’s back playing again.”
—Gonzaga’s defense has had one of its best stretches of the season. Portland scored 49 points on 41-percent shooting. Butler made 50 percent of its shots, but scored 64 points in a possession-by-possession game. BYU had 63 points on 36-percent shooting. San Francisco was held to 52 points on 39-percent shooting and LMU struggled with 43 points and 25-percent shooting.
“Our defense has really been getting us going last the 3-4 games,” Few said. “I think guys are taking more pride in it and we’ve been talking about it a lot.”
—Guy Landry Edi (ankle) returned after a one-game absence. He said his ankle was fine after rolling it against USF last Saturday. Edi played prep basketball at two L.A.-area schools (Van Nuys and Sylmar) and he had roughly 10 friends in attendance. Edi didn’t score, but he had three assists in 16 minutes.
STATS OF NOTE
—Nineteen NBA scouts, representing 17 teams, were on hand. Gary Payton, an LMU season-ticket holder, watched the game and visited with Lions players afterward.
—Gonzaga’s 13 3s was a season high (previous best was 11 vs. LCSC). GU made 13 3s against Longwood and WSU (Pangos with nine) last season.
—Stockton and Pangos share the team lead in assists with 77. They both average 3.5 assists per game, but Pangos has played 706 minutes, Stockton 428.
—Stockton also has a team-high 40 steals.
—Mike Hart had 14 turnover-free minutes. He’s committed one turnover in 122 WCC minutes. He also had four rebounds, two offensive boards that led to baskets early in the first half, and two assists.
Olynyk on LMU: “We were playing very well. They have some guys that can really play, but I think we made it tough on them. I’m sure they were frustrated.”
Stockton: “So much fun. Everyone got in and everyone played hard and played good defense. That’s just a great team boost.”
Few, on if GU is talking about NCAA seeding, etc.: “Obviously yeah, we want to keep playing at a high level so we can help our seed and obviously we want to win a league champ. We’re talking about both those.”
Stockton: “We’ve come out hard in the first half the last couple games. It was good to finish it out and get in 40 minutes instead of 20.”
Few, on GU’s effort and second-half performance: “We did what we set out to do, come down here and play with some passion, bottled up the way we’ve been playing at home and do it on the road. We talked about that at half, finishing this off so we felt good, instead of just winning the first half and kind of hanging on in the second.”
Olynyk, on GU turning a 23-16 lead into a 46-18 halftime advantage: “Gary went 4 for 4 of four straight possessions. I think that kind of helps.”