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Monday, June 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Day after Santa Clara

Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) shoots a three-pointer during the first half of a men's college basketball game, Thurs., Jan. 28, 2016, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) shoots a three-pointer during the first half of a men's college basketball game, Thurs., Jan. 28, 2016, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Covered most of what I wanted to get to in the game story, but there’s always more to rehash.

The Zags rolled in the first half but slipped in the second. They still managed a relatively comfortable 84-67 victory over Santa Clara. GU is 2-0 against the Broncos and there’s a chance the squads could face off in Las Vegas in the opening round (No. 1 seed vs. 8/9 winner; 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, etc.). Here's Colin Mulvany’s photo gallery.

More below in my day-after post.

--There are times Kyle Wiltjer gets into a groove where the points pile up and his shots barely ruffle the net. He was in that so-called “zone” in the first half, dropping six 3-pointers and 23 points. I’m guessing at least four of those 3s didn’t disturb the rim on the way through the net.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive and shoot my open shots,” he said. “Once you’re in the zone, you’re not thinking about points, you’re just in the moment and kind of going.”

He cooled off some in the second half -- many of the Zags slogged through the final 20 minutes -- but still finished with 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting, 7 of 10 from 3, 8 of 9 at the FT line.

“He’s special when it starts going in like that and he starts feeling it,” Coach Mark Few said. “We did a good job finding him, getting him those shots and he did an unbelievable job of stepping up and making them. But then he needs to follow it up in the second half, listen to the plan, not turn it over and make simple plays.”

--The tale of two halves was reflected most on the defensive side. Santa Clara had just 22 points in the first half on 25-percent shooting. The Broncos had 45 points in the second half on 45.7-percent shooting. Many of those baskets came in fairly easy fashion -- in transition after GU turnovers, on drive-bys where the initial defender was beaten and there was little or no help at the rim. SCU also frequented the FT line (9 of 14 in the second half).

“We got kind of complacent on defense, stopped talking to one another, started having lapses and gave them easy buckets,” guard Eric McClellan said. “Those guys ran us in transition pretty well.”

--The search for a complete game continues. Gonzaga blasted some overmatched foes early (NAU, Mount St. Mary’s) and pounded a couple of WCC visitors (San Diego, LMU) but its best start-to-finish performance was probably versus Pepperdine (99-73), which now sits in third in the conference standings.

“The first half was great, probably the best we’ve played in a while, but now we have to put the second half together and make a complete game,” guard Josh Perkins said. “We have to figure it out, get good shots on goal, really dig in and cut them off (defensively). We played not to lose when really we should keep being aggressive.”

Added Few: “Based on that second half, we need to clean up a lot.”

Added Dranginis: “Second half, kind of been a trend lately. We kind of let them get back into it, silly turnovers. We were able to maintain our lead a little bit. … If we come out in the second half thinking 0-0 on the scoreboard, we’ll be better.”

STATS OF NOTE

--It’s about as close to a shooting slump as it gets for one of the top percentage shooters in GU history. Domantas Sabonis has made just 22 of 51 shots (43.1 percent) over the last five games, dropping his WCC percentage to 55 and his overall mark to 60.6.

--The Zags’ 16 turnovers was one below their season high (vs. NAU).

--Wilter’s 3-point percentage is almost up to 45 percent. He’s at 52.7 in WCC games.

--Dranginis has scored in double figures three times this season, including two of the last three games.

QUOTEBOOK

Perkins on Wiltjer: “Pure shooter, with four Es at the end.”

Wiltjer on the second half: “We didn’t get as many stops and we were just trading baskets with them.”

Few: “We’ve been encouraging (Bryan Alberts) to do that (hunt more shots). Obviously it helps us if he does that. Those were big (3s in the second half) because we weren’t playing very good offense in that stretch.”

 

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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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