Back with a day-after post from Gonzaga's 100-76 victory over Bryant University. Perhaps lost a little bit in GU's easy win was that it came against a pretty decent ball club. Bryant has experience, played in the post season last year and has two nice offensive weapons in Alex Francis and Dyami Starks, who went on a scoring binge late and finished with 35 points, 29 in the second half (you can be sure that was mentioned to GU players by the staff after the game).
“At times, I don’t think we defended quite the way we needed to,” coach Mark Few said, “but they run nice schemes to get two really good players the ball. When we needed to, I thought we did a nice job on the glass and on the defense.”
—Sam Dower Jr.'s performance was exceptional: 21 points, 17 boards. Yes it was against an undersized opponent, but Dower played with great effort and was solid at both ends of the floor, and that's important. As Dower mentioned in a post-game interview, he hasn't been known as a great rebounder and the same has been said of his defense. After watching a replay of Saturday's game this morning, it was obvious Dower did a nice job on Francis in the first half. Francis had four field goals in the first half, but two were blow-by drives against Karnowski and Barham.
Much like Gary Bell Jr. guarding Starks early on, Dower was able to stay in front of the 6-6 Francis for the most part.
“I'm used to in past years playing the center and they usually don't have the driving (ability),” Dower said. “For the most part we did a good job guarding (Francis). He was athletic, quick, spin moves.”
I mentioned to Few afterward that Dower flat got after it. Few's response: “He's got to. There isn’t anybody else, he has to. He's in good shape, he’s leaner, and he moved to the ball as good as I’ve ever seen him.”
—Gonzaga would probably prefer to redshirt Luke Meikle, but he's been pressed into duty with the limited numbers inside. He played eight minutes last night.
“I was pretty confident I was going to get into the game,” Meikle said. “I wasn't thinking redshirt because I know we're low on big guys. When I went out there I wanted to make most of my opportunity and just give Sam and Shem a blow because I know playing the whole game has to be exhausting.
“I was a little nervous at first, but once you get in the flow of the game it's just basketball. I have to go back to grindstone every day in practice and continue to prove myself day in and day out and try to build up on these minutes.”
—The Zags received quality play from reserves Drew Barham, Kyle Dranginis and Gerard Coleman. Barham made three 3s and added a couple of Mike Hart-like hustle plays that brought extra possessions. Dranginis hit a 3, split minutes at the ‘3’ and ‘4’ and finished with nine points, three boards and three assists.
“Kyle has been playing very well for us,” Few said. “As good as he’s played since he’s been here.”
Barham was the first sub in the game, followed by Dranginis and then Coleman.
Coleman’s first basket caused a double-take by a few press-row observers. The left-hander drove baseline right and seemingly had nowhere to go but he stopped on a dime, angled back to the left and scored.
He finished with 15 points, all generated in transition and via drives to the rim. He played against Bryant two years ago when he was at Providence and Bryant coaches clearly instructed defenders to sag off the 6-4 wing. They did just that, but Coleman was still able to penetrate.
“I’m so familiar with everyone on that team, unless they’re freshmen,” Coleman said. “I knew what to expect coming in.”
The Bulldogs are going to play long stretches with a smaller lineup (Barham/Dranginis/Meikle at the ‘4’), which will have pluses and minuses.
“We’re always going to be small when it’s Stocks, Pangos and Bell in the game and when I come in,” Coleman said. “We’re kind of thin but it’s going to work to our advantage because we’re going to play fast. If bigger teams try to play that way, they’ll probably turn it over.”
STATS OF NOTE
—Coleman had four of GU’s nine steals.
—Gonzaga won the glass, 39-30.
—Pangos made just 1 of 7 3-pointers, but all were open looks. Said Few: “They were toed up, those were the ones he makes and those are ones we want him to take.”
—Bryant had an ugly assists-to-turnovers ratio: 5-14. Gonzaga’s was 16-8.
—Stockton scored the first four points of the game. He finished with six points, four assists, three turnovers and two steals in 29 minutes, second only to Pangos' 30.
Bryant coach Tim O’Shea: “We don’t have the type of size Gonzaga has but then again, you are talking about a team that has aspirations, legitimate aspirations, for a Final Four versus a program that is in its second year of full Division 1 membership.”
O’Shea on Francis: “It was tough because the size differential in this game was just so much for him. And when they double him, you’ve got a 7-1 guy and a 6-9 guy closing on him. It was hard for him to get to the rim and that’s probably what he does best.”
Dower: “These games count, we’re taking every game like it’s a championship game. We were giving 100 percent effort, guys flying around and doing what Zags do on the court.”
Karnowski on Dower: “He does what he does. That’s good for our team. I’m just trying to do my job, maybe another night I will grab his rebounds.”