Gonzaga's roster is complete again with the return of guard Gary Bell Jr.
It's been a while since the Zags have had their entire roster available. Bell, who broke his right hand on Dec. 28, was out for nearly four weeks and he missed six games. He's expected to play against San Diego on Thursday. GU has also dealt with forward Sam Dower Jr.'s back injury, suffered Kansas State on Dec. 21. Dower missed two games. Guard Kevin Pangos has been bothered by a turf toe injury since early December but hasn't missed a game.
More below on Bell, the Toreros and a couple of USD players who played high school basketball in Spokane.
COMING UP: Thursday vs. San Diego, 7 (ESPNU); Saturday vs. BYU, 7 (ESPN2)
OUTLOOK: San Diego was picked to finish fifth in the WCC preseason poll but has struggled with a road-heavy schedule in the first half of conference play. Guard Johnny Dee is averaging a team-high 16.5 points and has cracked USD’s top 10 scoring list. Christopher Anderson leads the WCC at 5.9 assists per game and he’s third in school history with 461 career assists. Wing Duda Sanadze (13.3 ppg) had a career-high 25 points in a road win over Santa Clara last week and forward Dennis Kramer averages 11.4 points, 6.4 rebounds.
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By Jim Meehan
email@example.com, (208) 765-7131
For the first time in nearly four weeks, Gonzaga will have everyone available on its roster.
Junior guard Gary Bell Jr., who broke his right hand on Dec. 28, received medical clearance Wednesday and he’s expected to play when the Bulldogs (16-3, 6-1) entertain San Diego (11-9, 2-5) Thursday at 7.
Gonzaga’s top three scorers have been dealing with injuries. Bell has missed six games. Senior forward Sam Dower, who missed two games in late December with a lower back injury, appears to be close to full strength after averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds last week. Point guard Kevin Pangos has been battling turf toe since early December.
For the first time in WCC play, Gonzaga will have the Kennel Club intact. The Bulldogs’ first four conference games came with students on holiday break.
“It’s fun,” senior forward Drew Barham said. “There’s not too many of these (home games) left so we have to take advantage of every one of them.”
San Diego opens conference with seven of its first nine on the road. Eight of USD’s nine losses are by 11 points or less, including a 65-64 loss to San Diego State and a 73-66 loss to New Mexico.
“The thing we haven’t been as good with as we were earlier in the year is defense,” said Toreros coach Bill Grier, a former Gonzaga assistant. “It’s just frustrating we’re not defending as well but with that being said we’ve been right there to win some of these games.”
San Diego limited opponents to 60.8 points on 38-percent shooting in non-conference games. Those numbers have soared to 70.4 points and 48.5 percent in conference games.
Four Corners notebook item…
San Diego’s annual visit to the McCarthey Athletic Center is old hat for Bill Grier, a Gonzaga assistant for 16 years before becoming the Toreros’ head coach seven years ago.
It’ll be a newer experience for the Toreros’ Chris Sarbaugh, who helped Gonzaga Prep win the 2011 4A state title, and Brett Bailey, former University High standout.
Sarbaugh, a former Gonzaga walk-on who played at North Idaho College last season, has worked his way into USD’s rotation. He’s averaging 5.4 points and 20.4 minutes in WCC games. He’s reached double figures in two of San Diego’s last five games, including a season-high 12 points vs. Pepperdine. He has 25 assists, tied for second on the team.
“He doesn’t do a lot of stat-stuffing things,” Grier said. “He does a little of everything and he has a good feel for how to play. He can guard multiple guys, that’s an area he’s really helped us. I think he’s kind of a winner and he does whatever it takes.”
The 6-foot-6 Bailey is averaging 2.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 13.2 minutes. He started two games earlier in conference but has returned to coming off the bench. Bailey scored a season-high seven points against Morgan State in the third game of the season.
“He’s the only freshman, and like all freshmen they have struggles and he’s going through it by himself,” Grier said. “He has so much ability. His confidence is down a little bit but he’s had some flashes. He played really well at Santa Clara but he struggled at San Francisco. At (Tuesday’s) practice he was great.
“We’re kind of waiting for that one game for him to break out.”