Gonzaga senior guard Steven Gray jumped up and released a 3-point shot with just under four minutes left in the first half, just like he’d done six times previously. The only difference? This one didn’t settle into the net.
Gray triggered a 3-point barrage that saw the Bulldogs make their first seven from distance and 9 of 10 in the first half as they breezed to an 86-57 men’s basketball victory over Eastern Washington in front of an announced crowd of 6,000 Tuesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Gray drained his first six 3s, including back-to-back treys that hiked Gonzaga’s lead to 36-12 late in the first half.
“He’s been doing that all year,” said point guard Demetri ‘Meech’ Goodson, who dished out six assists in just 20 minutes of playing time. “Every time I’m coming down the court I’m like, ‘Where’s Steve?’ I’m just trying to find him.”
The Bulldogs (4-2) played without sophomore forward Elias Harris, who hasn’t been able to practice since the team returned from Kansas City last Wednesday. Harris injured his Achilles tendon in the closing minutes against San Diego State on Nov. 16, but returned to play six days later against Kansas State. He had his best game of the young season the following night in a win over Marquette.
“He’s tried to loosen it up but it just feels really, really tight,” head coach Mark Few said.
Harris is scheduled for an MRI today. Gonzaga faces No. 20 Illinois on Saturday in Seattle.
“It’s kind of painful when I run and have to push off the ground,” Harris said. “I want to get out there and play. I’m tired of being injured. The last 2-3 weeks I’ve had more injuries than I’ve had the last five years.”
Even without Harris, GU had too much firepower for the Eagles (1-5), who were missing three players, including guards Glen Dean (foot) and Cliff Colimon (ankle). EWU made just 34 percent of its shots and committed 21 turnovers.
“I was disappointed that we weren’t tougher with the ball,” Eagles coach Kirk Earlywine said. “We let them take the ball out of our hands five or six times in the second half. We had some ill-advised drives that led to turnovers. When you’re playing without a point guard, it’s pretty tough. We have a whole bunch of set plays, things that could have released some pressure, but we can’t run them.”
Freshman forward Mathis Mönninghoff had two 3s and sophomore wing Manny Arop, who made his first career start, added another as Gonzaga connected on 61.5 percent of its shots in the first half. The Bulldogs were in the mid 60s – in the neighborhood of the school record of 71.8 percent – midway through the second half before finishing at 58 percent against EWU’s 2-3 zone defense.
“It would have been uglier if we would have tried to play man-to-man with eight guys,” Earlywine said. “Gray and No. 22 (Mönninghoff) were the guys that we wanted to run off the 3-point line. Obviously we didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
Gray only attempted one shot in the second half. He finished with 18 points. Mönninghoff and Robert Sacre each had 13 points and Sam Dower added 11. Ten Zags scored and nobody played more than 25 minutes.
“We did a nice job of finding guys to get shots,” Few said. “Meech is slowly, silently putting together a nice little year. He’s around 5 to 1 (assists to turnovers for the season).”
Jeffrey Forbes paced EWU with four 3-pointers and 18 points. Kevin Winford chipped in 11 points for the Eagles, who entertain New Hope Christian on Saturday.