I had a Bill Walton moment last night.
Walton frequently mentions during telecasts that one of the best parts of his job is meeting the parents of players. So after my last interview, I approached Sam Dower Sr., mainly to tell him that his son is one of the nicest kids on the planet. The elder Dower was appreciative and quickly relayed a story. He told me that numerous schools were recruiting Sam, many closer to the family's home base in Minnesota, but he was adamant that his son make his own decision, knowing it would make him happier in the long run. That piece of advice hit home, with two daughters contemplating their college choices.
Onward. A memorable night at the McCarthey Athletic Center, from Kelly Olynyk's guest appearance to Dower's 25 points and 15 rebounds to Brian Bhaskar's bring-the-house-down 3 in the closing seconds of GU's 86-67 win over LMU. Here's my game story, another from A.P. and an S-R photo gallery (great snap of Bhaskar above). Tom Clouse tackled the fan angle with an article on the Kennel Club and an accompanying photo gallery.
Read on for my day-after post.
—Bhaskar’s 3 triggered an ear-splitting response from the crowd. As always, there’s a bit of a back story. Bhaskar came in with 90 ticks left and immediately messed up.
“I made a mistake on my first possession,” he said. “Coach Few said, ‘Hey, this isn’t a free run, take it seriously.’ I tried to step it up. ‘Stocks’ came up and said, ‘You have to take a shot.’ Once it went in, hands down one of the greatest feelings ever.”
I mentioned to him that I thought he hit a 3 earlier this season. “2 for 2 in this building,” Bhaskar smiled. He connected against Coppin State.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” senior guard David Stockton said. “Great moment for him and a great moment for us.”
—Dower waited patiently while the media interviewed Kelly Olynyk outside the locker room, then lobbed a question at his long-haired buddy.
“Is it true that Head and Shoulders is looking for an endorsement?” Dower said.
“I think there might be something in the works,” Olynyk said. “Talk to my agent about that and we’ll see how it goes.”
—Best sign of the night: A young female with a sign that read: “Stockton, we’ll always have Maui!”, with a picture of Stockton buried in sand as she’s about to smooch Stockton’s cheek. Stockton’s mom, Nada, made sure to take video of the sign during a timeout.
John Stockton had a busy night. He was at the MAC for pre-game ceremonies when the seniors were announced. He jetted over to his daughter Laura’s game as Gonzaga Prep won the district title, and raced back to watch nearly all of the second half of Gonzaga’s win.
“That’s what happens when you have that many kids,” David said. “You’re running around.”
—Dower and fellow big Przemek Karnowski had slow starts. Their first bucket was a Karnowski layup on a nice feed from Kyle Dranginis with 8:25 left in the first half. After that, the points and rebounds started stacking up. They scored 19 of GU's last 24 points of the half. The other five were produced by Dranginis.
“We knew we had an advantage with the bigs and we tried to go there as many times as we could, even though they were collapsing,” coach Mark Few said.
In two games against the injury-riddled LMU front court, Dower has 52 points and 29 rebounds.
“They only have three bigs and they’re not really that tall,” Dower said. “I was just trying to go to my strengths.”
—Kevin Pangos, somewhat quietly, had his best week since the San Diego-BYU homestand. He made seven 3s and scored 35 points in wins over Pepperdine and LMU. He was off to the training room after the game, but he seems to be making steady progress in his recovery from turf toe and a sprained ankle.
After a rough week last week, Gary Bell Jr. bounced back with five 3s and 25 points in the two wins.
STATS OF NOTE
—Dranginis had 13 highly productive minutes with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal.
—Angel Nunez had similar numbers in 14 minutes, finishing with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.
—GU’s bench, with the help of Bell’s 14 points (Barham started in his place) outscored LMU’s 29-2. The Lions were essentially down to six healthy players.
—The Zags made 20 of 25 FTs. Pangos went 2 of 2 and sits at 90 percent for the season (81 of 90)
—Gonzaga is shooting 50 percent for the season, 40.4 percent on 3s. GU is actually shooting a touch worse in WCC games (48.8 and 39.8, respectively).
—GU has outscored opponents by 262 points in the first half, by 80 in the second. In WCC play, the Zags have outscored foes by 131 in the first half, by 47 in the second.
Bhaskar, after making his 3: “Honestly, that was the best feeling in my entire life.”
Dower on GU’s 40-25 rebounding edge: “I’ve said it before, that’s our key to being successful.”
Few on Senior Night: “It was great … I thought Kelly showing up made it one of all the all-time great ones, right up there with JP (Batista’s) brother coming in from Brazil. It just shows you how great a guy Kelly is and how much he loves this program.”
Stockton on Senior Night: “We have so much more season left it’s kind of hard to grasp. It hasn’t really hit me yet. I just want to win this league, outright.”
Asked if he had heard the BYU score, which assured GU of at least a piece of the WCC title, Stockton said: “I just now found out. That’s pretty cool.”
Lions coach Max Good: “We’re down to three post players. We’re doing it with mirrors. They’re almost playing defensive defense, to keep from fouling out. We like to play offense on defense. We want to play man-to-man, but we played zone the whole game because we don’t have a choice right now.”