In a twitter hurry last night, I had a typo that Gonzaga was leading Saint Mary's 238-20 late in the first half. (Well done by Gabe Ayers' swift re-tweet: “That really escalated quickly.”)
Turns out I wasn't too far off. It was a mind-boggling night at the McCarthey as GU rolled 73-51, the Gaels needing an 11-3 closing run to make the final margin 22. Saint Mary's went 36-plus minutes before its first assist and first 3-pointer. Przemek Karnowski swatted seven shots. Brad Waldow, a quality center and career 64-percent shooter, went 1 of 8.
Here's the rundown: My game story and Jesse Tinsley's photo gallery. The holiday break reduced the Kennel Club to about 50 students, so John Blanchette volunteered to fill the void in his column. Here's a gamer from the Contra Costa Times.
More below in my day-after post.
—On Saint Mary’s first possession, the Gaels set their trademark high ball screen for point guard Stephen Holt, who drove the right side of the lane. Drew Barham fought over the top of the screen and trailed Holt. Karnowski moved to his left to contain Holt, staying at roughly the same depth as Waldow as he rolled toward the basket. At the time of the screen, guards David Stockton, Kyle Dranginis and Kevin Pangos formed a picket fence across the middle of the lane (Pangos was a step outside the paint).
Waldow was covered up so Holt opted to continue driving. Pangos jab-stepped at Holt and recovered toward a Gael at the 3-point line. Holt tried a short bank shot over Karnowski, who swatted the shot. Dranginis blocked out Waldow to secure the loose ball.
Over the next eight minutes, the Zags switched on the high-ball screen, the ‘big’ hedged hard to force Holt to retreat away from the basket and the big stepped in front of the penetrating Holt to give the guard time to recover. In other words, the Zags used several tactics to defend the high ball screen, a staple of Saint Mary’s offense through the years with Mills, McConnell, Dellavedova and now Holt at the controls.
Karnowski kept blocking shots. The Gaels kept struggling to score. They made some baskets on dribble penetration, but the Zags were able to not only control Holt, but recover in time to contest perimeter shooters, no easy task. Entering the contest, the Gaels had just three games of sub.-40 percent shooting beyond the 3-point line, only one below 36 percent. Holt was shooting 44 percent from distance, James Walker 46, Beau Levesque 44 and Kerry Carter 47.
With Waldow in the lane, it can be a pick-your-poison deal against the Gaels. The Zags took away nearly all of those options. Levesque was the lone exception as he was able to score on 2-3 bounce drives on smaller defenders.
“Shem was phenomenal guarding Waldow and the basket,” coach Mark Few said. “I thought our guards did a nice job. All of their guys can shoot the 3, so it’s predicated on having help and we did a good job chasing them off the (3-point) line.”
Few and player after player credited Tommy Lloyd’s scouting report in discussing GU’s defensive success.
—In my game story, I used the word ‘perhaps’ the best game of Karnowski’s career because he’s put together several notable performances, including a 19-point, 13-rebound game at West Virginia.
Karnowski has made 10 of his last 13 FG attempts. He has grabbed at least eight rebounds in every game since Nov. 26.
“He’s been putting a lot of pressure on himself and making it harder than it is,” Few said. “We’ve been encouraging him, and I think we were looking for a breakout game like this. He was far and away the best player on the floor.”
—Sam Dower Jr. is still on the mend from a lower-back injury, but he played 7 minutes after missing the last two games. Dower literally had nothing but zeroes on the stat sheet (no FG attempts, rebounds, etc.), unless one counts the miles tracker on the stationary bike he rode for most of the evening.
Dower’s tender back didn’t allow him to post-up strong on the low block. He was displaced by defenders on several occasions.
“He showed a lot of courage and a lot of heart because he’s really hurting,” Few said. “But you’ve got to game plan for Sam now because he’s a different entity as far as shooting it and what he can do and his experience. That buys us time and gets us a little bit deeper, which is what we need obviously.”
—Pangos wore a new brace to protect his right big toe, a rigid plate that barely allows any bend in his shoe.
David Stockton was clearly battling the effects of the flu. He had a couple of turnovers early, but was otherwise solid in 30 minutes, finishing with four points and two assists.
“He was pretty sick,” Pangos said. “He doesn’t usually show anything, but (Wednesday) he was struggling and didn’t have a lot of expression. For him to play was pretty impressive. We’re just beat up.”
STATS OF NOTE
—About the only negative item on Gonzaga’s stat sheet: 15 turnovers, 4 by Dranginis.
—Backup center Ryan Edwards fouled out in nine minutes. Gonzaga contested everything in the paint and was willing to pick up a foul or two or five while doing so.
—GU had its best 3-point shooting night in more than a month. The Zags made 9 of 19 (47.4 percent), their best percentage since making 60 percent against Arkansas in Maui. The 9 3s was their most since draining 12 vs. Coppin State on Dec. 1.
—The Bulldogs had a 17-3 edge in second-chance points.
—GU doesn’t have an official record for blocks, but Karnowski’s seven is believed to be a MAC record at the very least.
The school record for blocks in an NCAA tournament game is shared by Ronny Turiaf, Austin Daye and Robert Sacre, each with 4. A quick search of the S-R archives showed Turiaf with six blocks against LMU in 2005, which reportedly tied his career high.
—In the last four games, Barham has made 13 of 25 3s. He’s shooting 45.3 percent on 3s for the season.
—Karnowski made 5 of 6 free throws, bumping his season FT percentage over 50 (50.6).
—In three WCC games, GU opponents have made 34.6 percent of their shots, 25.5 percent of 3-pointers and are averaging just 50.7 points.
Karnowski on receiving a standing ovation: “That helped me to realize that I gave probably my best effort this year to the team.”
Dranginis: “It feels really good to be 3-0 (in the WCC) going into this weekend. All teams are going to be banged up, that’s just the way it goes in basketball. But you’ve got to come out and compete every night.”
Karnowski: “Sam is still hurt, he played a couple minutes, and Angel gave us good stuff from the bench. You have to give him big credit.”
Few: “I’m happy for Angel, he’s come in and really helped in all three games. I thought Gerard (Coleman) is back to giving us something off the bench.”
SMC’s Levesque: “That was not a Saint Mary’s performance by any stretch of the imagination.”
Karnowski on what he’s been doing with his parents, who have been visiting from Poland for the last two weeks: “We’ve been hanging out, we went to the mall, out for dinner and spending time together. I showed them some of Spokane. We had 3-4 days off for Christmas. I think so far they like it.”