Five games into the Gonzaga men’s basketball season, coach Mark Few isn’t sure what he’s going to get when he calls on his bench.
“It’s a grab bag from game to game; from day to day,” said Few, whose Bulldogs (3-2) entertain Eastern Washington (1-4) tonight at 6 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. “I don’t know if that will change. Some years you know what you’re getting and you have a real set rotation. Others, quite frankly, you just don’t.”
Last week was symbolic of Gonzaga’s bench work. In the Bulldogs’ 66-63 win over Marquette, sophomore wing Manny Arop contributed a career-high 15 points and GU reserves outscored their counterparts by nine. In a 17-point loss to Kansas State, Gonzaga’s bench was outscored 35-20.
In a home loss to San Diego State, the Aztecs held a 22-9 edge in bench points. In blowouts over Southern and IUPUI, Gonzaga’s bench had big games.
“With this team it’s kind of been, ‘How did you play last game? Did you help us?’ ‘How’s your week of practice going?’ ” Few said.
Marquise Carter was a two-time NJCAA All-American at Three Rivers Community College, but he’s still adjusting to the Division I level. He started one game and came off the bench in the other four. He’s averaging 1.8 points in 8.8 minutes per game.
“The major thing I’m really adjusting to is the speed and tempo of the game, the environment and the fans and the opposing teams,” Carter said. “Everybody on the other team is talented.”
Carter estimated that the biggest crowd he played in front of during his J.C. career was probably 3,000-4,000 for the national championship game in Hutchinson, Kan. Nearly 19,000 fans, most wearing Wildcats’ purple, watched Gonzaga face Kansas State in Kansas City last Monday.
“It’s different as far as there are a lot of plays and a lot of things to remember,” Carter said. “I’m trying to adjust to that and play hard every time I’m out there and my opportunity is going to come.
“At the beginning, it was really tough. I thought I was going to be able to come in and just do the things I was doing in junior college, but I realize it’s not really that easy. It’s a long process and you have to learn. You have other players that are just as good as you, maybe even better.”
Carter can garner more playing time, but he needs to play with “more sense of urgency and with a little more fire and energy,” Few said.
Gonzaga doesn’t necessarily have an established starting lineup. Mathis Mönninghoff and Kelly Olynyk each have started two games. Mönninghoff scored six of GU’s nine bench points against San Diego State. He’s scored three points in two starts. Olynyk scored a season-high 13 points off the bench against IUPUI.
“We have to get (Mönninghoff) out and running a little bit, our wings have always attacked better in transition, and he has to assert himself more rebounding, but he’s had a lot thrown at him,” Few said. “These are new experiences for him and he’s holding up pretty well.”
Redshirt freshman Sam Dower has a nice scoring touch, but his playing time will be determined by how he performs at the defensive end.
“That is the correlation with his time,” Few said, “because we’re all more than comfortable with him on the offensive end.”
David Stockton had five points and two assists against Kansas State. He had 13 points in routs over Southern and IUPUI. He didn’t play against San Diego State.
“We’re just trying to get him to tone down on the turnovers,” Few said, “but he sees things and he has a great feel for the game. In certain situations, he can help us.”