You know the drill. Here’s my game story (ignore headline, Zags are 6-1 in conference) from GU’s 82-72 win over Loyola Marymount on Saturday.
Read on for my day-after post.
--Drew Barham continues to shine, whether he starts or comes off the bench. Sam Dower Jr. reclaimed his starting spot the last two games, but Barham delivered two strong performances.
Barham made timely baskets, finishing with 8 points against Pepperdine and 16 vs. LMU. He hit 6 of 10 3-pointers.
“Those were some big-time shots,” Kyle Dranginis said, “because they were pressing us and there was always a guy or two open. He stepped up and made big shots.”
Barham also had nice stretches defensively, particularly in GU’s run in the final 10 minutes of the first half at Pepperdine. He has developed a Mike Hart-esque knack for rounding up key offensive rebounds. He finished with 10 boards in two outings.
“It was good to get back on track and put the Portland loss behind us,” said Barham, deflecting attention from himself.
“He’s really come in throughout the whole year and just made clutch plays,” Few said. “Those were big baskets that stemmed the rallies a bit and allowed us to get our feet back and get some defensive stops.”
--Dower is about the last guy on the planet I would expect to see miss from close range but he was snake-bit at times, especially in the opening minutes. Five or six shots usually in Dower’s wheelhouse toured the rim but didn’t find the net.
To be clear, Dower still made 12 of 22 shots, including a right-handed finish from 8 feet, and all four of his free throws. He scored a career-high 28 points and dominated the glass, too, with 14 boards.
“I missed a lot of bunnies I usually make,” he said. Dower didn’t hang his head and he was Gonzaga’s primary option, along with Barham on kick-outs. Both came through, combining for 44 points.
As Barham and others pointed out, LMU seemed content keeping Kevin Pangos under control and it worked, although the junior guard still had his share of open looks.
“They only had one 3 in the first half, that was a big part of our game plan,” LMU coach Max Good said. “We played some zone. We never play zone but we kind of had to.”
The Lions rarely doubled down on Dower, who kept making them pay. For long stretches, the Lions went with a trapping zone on the perimeter that limited their chances to double.
“I noticed it,” Dower said, “but I just kept trying to play and adjust if they did (double).”
“It was a little surprising,” Dranginis said. “But at the same time we have so many good shooters on the floor if they want to double the posts we can kick it out for 3. It’s hard to guard both and I think they wanted to take the guards away.”
--I mentioned it in the game story and I’ll elaborate on it here: Kyle Dranginis did a solid job defensively on All-WCC guard Anthony Ireland. The Lions’ senior did some damage with 13 points and nine assists, but he made just 5 of 15 shots. He had four turnovers, all in the first half. Dranginis camped on Ireland's right hand, forcing him to drive to his left.
The 6-foot-5 Dranginis used his length to take away Ireland’s perimeter opportunities (he was just 1 of 2 on 3s). The Zag guard had help when the 5-10 Ireland drove the lane, where he had mixed success finishing over taller defenders. GU helpers also stripped the ball away from Ireland a couple of times as he dribbled into the lane. He had another turnover when he navigated past three Zags and zipped a pass to an open cutter on the baseline that was just too hot to handle from close range.
“We played really well on him as a team,” Dranginis said. “No way one guy is going to stop him. I was depending on the rest of the guys to help me out and they helped really well.”
The Zags kept Ireland (2 of 3) and the rest of the Lions off the free-throw line (10 of 13). Ireland commanded a lot of attention, with hard hedges or brief double-teams by the bigs on high-ball screens, and he was able to sting GU on occasion by finding open shooters, leading to his nine assists.
“We really made him work,” Few said. “He’s a great talent with a huge heart. He has some fight in him and he’s going to keep coming at you. We did a really nice job on him.”
--As mentioned in the game story, LMU was down to seven scholarship players after losing a few players to season-ending injuries. On Saturday, they had eight scholarship players available, but forward Ben Dickinson didn’t play, apparently for disciplinary reasons.
STATS OF NOTE
--The Lions had 15 offensive rebounds, but only converted them into 11 points. GU turned 15 offensive boards into 17 points, including a couple of key baskets by Dower late in the second half and another putback by Przemek Karnowski in traffic.
--Gonzaga made 51.4 percent of its shots in the first half, 56% in the second and 53.2% overall. GU made 69.2 percent against Pacific, the only time in its last 10 games it reached 50 percent.
--Pangos was limited to a season-low 3 points.
--GU’s bench outscored LMU’s 29-15.
--Dranginis played 34 minutes against Pepperdine and 37 against LMU. He’s had five straight games with at least 32 minutes.
Dower on GU’s first-place standing, 6-1 conference start: “We feel good. We had one tough loss and now we got two good road wins. Now we’re focusing on two more (games) at home this week.”
Dranginis: “We kind of relaxed at the beginning of second half and they’re a team that never goes away. When it got tight, we did a good job pulling together.”
LMU’s Good: “We have a saying around here: ‘As long as you compete you don’t ever get beat.’ We might have lost the game but I don’t feel like we got beat because we did compete.”
Few: “These guys always show up and play the Zags, they always come after us. They have a lot of individual talent and they’re making plays and making shots. Some of those guys haven’t been shooting particularly well from 3 and they stepped up and made them. Our guys did a nice job of keeping their composure and finishing the game.”
Good: “We don’t do that (give up). We’re going to fight you. We don’t always shoot the ball that well. The other night was the first sign of guys not sharing the ball, but tonight I thought we moved the ball well. Nick (Stover) hit some shots and CJ (Blackwell) hit some shots.”
Few on Coleman’s 11-point first half: “It was a good game for him because there was some open floor and open space and he was finishing, which was nice to have.”
Dower on pulling away in the final 10 minutes: “That just shows our growth as a team. We know how to play down the stretch and make big plays. That’s what we did. We got their best shot.”