Back with my day-after post from a game in which No. 25 Gonzaga outshot San Diego by nearly 10 percentage points, outrebounded the Toreros by five, held a 9-3 edge in second-chance points and had six more assists but still fell short on the scoreboard, 69-66, late Saturday night.
The Bulldogs, who dropped both games on the road trip, will fall out of the A.P. Top 25 and they’ve put additional pressure on next week’s trip to Stockton and Moraga. GU still needs one win or one loss by BYU (at San Diego) and San Francisco (at Pepperdine, at Loyola Marymount) to secure at outright WCC title.
Gonzaga handled Pacific 86-64 and Saint Mary’s 73-51 in Spokane. BYU crushed the Toreros by 34 in Provo. USF beat both of the two L.A. schools by double digits earlier this season.
--Gonzaga started off with a nice inside-out mix. Gary Bell Jr. hit a pair of 3s around Przemek Karnowski’s two interior buckets and Gonzaga led 10-2 less than 2 minutes into the game.
Bell finished the half with 11 points and Karnowski and Sam Dower Jr. combined for 15 as Gonzaga trailed 36-34 at the break.
GU’s offense was essentially one dimensional in the second half. Dower and Karnowski had 20 of Gonzaga’s 32 points, but that was a bit misleading. Kyle Dranginis contributed five points in the second half. David Stockton also had five points, all coming in the final 20 seconds. Bell didn’t score in the second half and attempted just two shots. Kevin Pangos had two points in each half.
“The guards were having a hard time,” coach Mark Few said, “but we were having success (inside) so that’s why we were going to it. We put 3-point shooters out there so they couldn’t double and the bigs were one-on-one and they were delivering.”
Dower and Karnowski combined to make 16 of 21 FG attempts. The Bulldogs hit 6 of 13 3s for a solid 46.2 percent, but San Diego accomplished its goal of running shooters off the 3-point line (the Zags attempted just four 3s in the final 20 minutes).
Aside from some assists, Bulldogs’ guards/wings had little or no luck on the bounce, missing floaters and unable to finish near the rim. Gerard Coleman had success off the dribble in 4 first-half minutes with one FG and two FTs created by penetration into the lane, but he didn’t play in the second half (correx: played six seconds near the end)..
“The game plan was – Pangos and Bell shoot the absolute lights out of the 3 – so we wanted to chase them off the 3s,” San Diego guard Johnny Dee said. “Bell got going but Pangos didn’t hit his 3s.”
--Bell was on fire early. He then misfired on a couple of 3s, one was way off target, but he remained aggressive. On one play in transition, Bell filled the left lane and signaled to the ball-handler (I believe it was Stockton) in anticipation of coming open on the wing. Bell took the pass and buried the shot. He appeared to make his fourth 3 of the half, but the play was reviewed during a break and officials ruled it was a two-pointer.
On back-to-back second-half possessions, Bell missed his only 3-point attempt of the half and a wild runner.
USD, much like BYU on Thursday, was willing to sacrifice some point paints to limit Gonzaga beyond the 3-point arc.
--The Toreros received a solid performance from their rotation of bigs. The foursome of Dennis Kramer (9 points), Jito Kok (9), Simi Fajemisin (5) and Thomas Jacobs (5) combined for 28 points. Kramer averages 11.6 points, but Kok (3.9), Fajemisin (2.3) and Jacobs (2.7) were well above their normal production.
“Our big guys really had their hands full with their bigs,” San Diego coach Billy Grier said. “Karnowski is a massive human being. They’re hard to guard, (Dower and Karnowski) are both left-handed but our guys played their tails off. We got good play out Simi and Thomas off the bench.”
In one telling sequence, San Diego had three dunks in four possessions in the first half, helping fuel a comeback and amp up the crowd.
“This Gonzaga team is strong and really good at a lot of positions,” Dee said. “For us to come in, with the talent level they have, and be physical with them inside and make shots tough for those big guys was one of the keys.”
--Similar to BYU, the Zags would look smooth on offense for periods and then have numerous empty possessions in a row. The defense yielded points in a hurry at the outset, but later had some solid stretches. There wasn’t much middle ground.
As Few pointed out, it’s hard to pinpoint which side of the ball is struggling more because they’re taking turns at both ends of the court.
GU's defense was unable to keep the ball out of Dee's hands in the closing seconds. The deadeye FT-shooter caught three straight inbound passes and managed to burn valuable seconds by calling two timeouts to avoid five-second calls.
STATS OF NOTE
--Dower had 15 rebounds for the second time in three games. His career high was 17 in the season opener vs. Bryant.
--Karnowski made 11 of 14 shots in two games.
--Pangos was 0 of 2 on 3s, just the third game this season he didn’t make at least one trey. It was his second fewest 3-point attempts (he was 0 of 0 in the road game against Santa Clara).
--Pangos was 5 of 17 in two games, 2 of 7 on 3s.
--Counting the BYU game, Stockton was 0 of 8 before making his last two FG attempts in the final 20 seconds vs. the Toreros. In his last three games, Stockton is 3 of 16 from the field.
--San Diego didn’t commit a turnover in the first 10:30 of the second half.
--The Toreros’ bench outscored GU’s 25-11, mainly because of Duda Sanadze’s 15 points. He’s been coming off the bench with University High’s Brett Bailey getting the starting nod. Sanadze logged 28 minutes; Bailey 10.
--The Zags had 13 turnovers, not an alarmingly high number, but perhaps five or six came on entry passes to the posts.
--Christopher Anderson had four of USD’s nine steals.
--Karnowski fouled out for the third time this season. The last time he fouled out was against Arkansas on Nov. 27th in Maui.