Gonzaga sophomore center Robert Sacre’s point guard in high school was on the opposing team. One of Sacre’s coaches in Canada, Greg Francis, was calling plays on the opposite bench. GU freshman wing Manny Arop estimated he knew 10 of University of Alberta’s players from his days north of the border. Two were teammates on Canada’s junior national team.
“I think I played against three of those guys and (Alberta’s) Scott (Leigh) helped us win a provincial championship,” Sacre said. “I played for Coach Francis on many national team things. It was weird, but it was great.”
And it was competitive for most of the first half, but the Bulldogs clamped down defensively and ran away from the Golden Bears for a 94-53 exhibition victory Monday at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs utilized 15 players, 13 scored and nobody played more than 21 minutes.
Gonzaga trailed 22-21 nine minutes into the first half as the Golden Bears (4-5) canned their first five 3-point attempts. The Bulldogs closed the half with a 25-6 run and opened the second half with a 25-5 spurt to lead by 38-point.
“After the first five minutes, I thought our defense got going and our rebounding and transition (game), and all of our bodies kind of wore them out,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I was pretty happy with the guys’ effort, especially that first five minutes of the second half. That was some really good basketball, as far as defensive pressure and great rebound position and pretty darn efficient on the offensive end.”
Gonzaga’s newcomers all contributed. The 6-foot-5 Arop had eight points and a team-high 12 rebounds. Freshman forward Elias Harris, after a scoreless first half, scored nine points in the second half to go with five rebounds. G.J. Vilarino scored six points and his three assists tied Arop for team-high honors. Kelly Olynyk, one of four GU players with Canadian ties, made 3 of 4 shots and finished with seven points.
“It’s important everyone has their assignments and role on the team,” Arop said. “You have to take that to heart because your teammates are trusting you. That’s going to make us a better team with everyone doing their job.”
Freshman forward Sam Dower put up 14 shots in 17 minutes. He made seven field goals and scored 15 points. His 12-foot jumper and put-back jam of a Harris miss ignited GU’s big run over the last eight minutes of the first half.
“We’re all in the same position,” Dower said. “We’re new guys so we have something to prove and nobody really knows about us.”
Few was pleased with the newcomers.
“Some of them stepped up very well,” Few said. “Kelly played on a sprained ankle and I thought that showed some toughness. The freshmen were a pleasant surprise with how they handled everything.”
Senior Matt Bouldin had 15 of his 17 points in the first half. Sacre was effective inside, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds.
Gonzaga outrebounded Alberta 63-29. The Golden Bears made just 2 of their last 15 3-point attempts and their 17 turnovers led to 23 Bulldog points.
The Bulldogs will scrimmage Texas this weekend before entertaining Mississippi Valley State in the regular-season opener Nov. 14.