Zags turn complete game into fifth straight win
Offense, defense, rebounding, passing. The Gonzaga Bulldogs pretty much had every phase of the game covered en route to a convincing 73-52 win over Oklahoma State on Friday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
The Bulldogs’ fifth straight win was fueled by Elias Harris’ season-high 22 points, Rob Sacre’s 16 points and career-best 15 rebounds and Steven Gray’s 10 points and six assists. Gonzaga (9-5) handled the physical Cowboys (11-2) on the boards 44-32.
“I would say so, yeah,” Harris responded, when asked if Friday was Gonzaga’s most complete effort of the season. “Everybody was flying around, everybody was hustling, doing everything to get that ‘W’.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Gonzaga game if some form of adversity didn’t make an appearance. In addition to Gray battling a tender back, the Bulldogs were without freshman forward Mathis Mönninghoff. He was limping on an injured ankle, but he wasn’t sure how or when it happened. He doesn’t remember any missteps during Wednesday’s win over Lafayette, but he woke up Thursday with a swollen ankle.
As has been the case throughout GU’s winning streak, reserve players came through (Marquise Carter and Kelly Olynyk versus Baylor, Mathis Keita against Xavier). This time it was sophomore wing Manny Arop, who came off the bench to contribute seven points and 10 rebounds, and David Stockton, who had a pair of assists and a buzzer-beating 40-footer that sent the Zags into halftime with a 40-26 lead.
“We faced adversity early, losing some games (three) in a row, but that made us strong,” Arop said. “That made us learn how to fight through adversity and overcome difficult situations. It’s starting to show now.”
The Bulldogs were sluggish early on offense, enduring a 5-minute, 45-second drought between field goals, but when they hit their stride they played some of their best basketball of the season. Trailing 17-11, Gonzaga scored 11 straight points, fueled by assists by Stockton, Gray and Sacre, who finished with a career-high four assists.
“We were moving the ball, cutting, and Rob was doing a nice job when they were choking down on him,” head coach Mark Few said. “He found Manny, ‘E’ (Harris), and Steven did, too. We had some nice movement.”
OSU pulled within 35-26 on Marshall Moses’ sixth field goal of the half, but Sacre found Gray underneath for an easy layup and Stockton punctuated the half when he banked home a shot from just inside the half-court line.
Gray didn’t score until the final minute of the first half, but he seemed to return to form in the second half. He made a tough 8-footer on GU’s first possession and followed it up with a 3-pointer.
“I knew when he started driving to the basket again he was back,” Few said. “When he rose up on that one (3-pointer) in the second half, that was a really good sign.”
The Bulldogs led by 23 after Harris’ three-point play with 9:17 remaining.
“I really started the last two games trying to score and get as many rebounds as I can,” Harris said. “Just try to be the old Elias again. I knew they were going to try to beat us on the glass and try to push us around so I was ready for the fight. I think we did a pretty good job of taking the fight to them.”
Sacre had nine rebounds in the first half and finished with 15, four on the offensive end. Harris poured in 16 points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting.
“That’s the most physical front line we’ve played against, and we’ve played against some good ones – Baylor, Kansas State and San Diego State,” Few said. “It was great to see Elias back attacking. He’s strung together a week or 10 days of that.”
Moses finished with 17 points, but he had little support as OSU’s other four starters combined for 13 points. Keiton Page, who averages 15.8 points, scored two points.
“We held them to 26 points (in each half),” Arop said. “That’s a good team and good players. For us to hold them to 26 was pretty good.”