Gonzaga left no doubt – and maybe silenced a few doubters along the way – in clobbering visiting San Francisco 86-48 Saturday. There was no maddening second-half letdown, few if any careless turnovers, few if any defensive lapses.
Just 40 complete, energetic, dominating minutes that every college basketball team strives for but rarely achieves because, well, it’s darn hard to pull off. Perfect games are for baseball. It’s hard to imagine GU grading out higher this season against any opponent, let alone one with a winning record.
Read on for more in my day-after USF post.
--The Zags were in command from Domantas Sabonis winning the opening tip until the clock reached 0:00 at the end of the second half. “It was great to see and great for our guys to experience playing 40 minutes,” coach Mark Few said. “That was a full game probably as full a game as we’ve played all year against a team that is a really dangerous team.”
GU wasn’t satisfied when its lead reached 17 at half, soared past 25 with 13:40 left and 35 with 8 minutes remaining.
“It’s a lot more fun when we win by 40 than by 10 or 15,” Kyle Wiltjer said. “We did a lot better job of following up the first half with a good second half. We weren’t really thinking out there, we were just playing hard on defense, that led to some easy buckets in transition and some open 3s, and we took care of the ball. For us, that’s huge moving forward if we can take care of the ball.”
--Even when his shot wasn’t falling, Silas Melson has drawn praise from the coaching staff for his defensive efforts and his work ethic. He’s put in the hours trying to refine his stroke and Saturday it paid off with five 3-pointers and 15 points.
Melson entered the game shooting 22.9 percent on 3s and exited at 28.1.
“He’s been working really hard, he’s hung with it, he’s been playing great defense,” Few said. “He’s a really good player and he can shoot. It was nice to see him get on a roll.”
“I’m really happy for Si,” Sabonis said. “I actually came in with him to work out a couple times and he’s been shooting great.”
--Sabonis was in foul trouble early and played just 16 minutes, his shortest stint of the year. He got a lot done, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Contact and physical play are part of the big man’s job description and Sabonis typically puts in 30-plus minutes every game. He certainly embraces it, but the wear and tear has been evident.
Sabonis had a streak of games earlier in which his face seemed to be collecting stray elbows from opponents. There was the rolled ankle against Santa Clara on Dec. 31. Of late, he was seen shaking his hand after a hard fall against Saint Mary’s and Saturday night he was trying to loosen up his arm after taking another spill.
“It was fun, everyone got to play. I’m happy I got a bit of rest,” Sabonis said. “I got pretty banged up but it’s OK, nothing serious.”
--Another nice stretch for reserve center Ryan Edwards, who played 13 minutes in the first half with Sabonis on the bench and 22 overall. His numbers weren’t eye-catching (2 points, 4 boards, 1 assist) but he was effective at both ends of the court.
“By and large, I thought he protected the rim, which is what we’re asking him to do without Shem (Przemek Karnowski),” Few said. “We actually extended the lead with him in there with (Sabonis) out because he was doing such a nice job.”
GU’s bench combined for 29 points.
--Przemek Karnowski, sidelined for the season after having back surgery Dec. 31, was seated near the bench for the second straight game. He stays on the periphery, careful to avoid contact when the Zags start dancing in their pre-game circle near midcourt. Karnowski probably isn’t ready to travel with the team, at least for the next few road trips.
“It’s good for us, just our mentality,” Wiltjer said. “We miss him a lot. Him being here gives us that little extra energy and good vibes.”
STATS OF NOTE
--Wilter’s seven 3s versus Santa Clara on Thursday was the most by a Zag this season. He also had six in a game. Melson’s five matched Perkins' five vs. Pepperdine for the third highest.
--Gonzaga’s guards had zero turnovers. The six turnovers were committed by bigs or credited to ‘team’ on the stat sheet.
--16 GU turnovers led to 23 Santa Clara points on Thursday. The Dons only had two points off the Zags’ six turnovers.
--Gonzaga has outscored opponents by 227 points in the first half, 79 in the second.
--GU is shooting 43.6 percent on 3s in WCC play. GU shoots 41.3 percent from distance at home, 34.3 on the road, 34.7 at neutral sites.
Sabonis on team hitting 3s: “It just makes it a lot easier, takes all the pressure off me and Wiltjer. It’s a great feeling.”
Perkins: “It was great seeing that (from Melson). I see it every day.”
Bryan Alberts on GU’s 28 3s in the last two games: “That’s our guards being more aggressive and looking for our shots. I have to look for it a little bit more. I think I’m progressing in that area.”