It’s evident in Mark Few’s cautionary words.
Gonzaga’s men’s basketball coach has a list of concerns about Thursday night’s home matchup with Oral Roberts, leading off with the fact that the Golden Eagles, preseason favorites in the Summit League, are a talented team.
“Anytime a team returns six starters, a veteran team that is athletic and physical, that would scare me on the first day of the season or the last,” Few said. “Stack that in with finals and bunch of my guys have never taken college finals before, how they’re getting through those, getting rest and taking care of themselves, it’s going to be a challenge.
“This is the only place (in the schedule) we could fit this game in.”
It’s a tight fit, considering Gonzaga (5-2) has a showdown with Arizona on Saturday afternoon in Seattle.
Several Bulldogs have finals Thursday, some as late as 3:30. Tip-off is at 6. Gonzaga has dropped two straight, committing 36 turnovers and allowing 53.7-percent shooting in losses to Illinois and Michigan State.
“Mental breakdowns are where we’re giving up a lot of those shots and that’s what is driving those percentages up,” said sophomore guard David Stockton, GU’s second-leading scorer over the last four games (13.3 points). “Other than that, we need to be able to get stops late in games.”
Oral Roberts (7-3) dropped its first two games to West Virginia and Texas-San Antonio before rattling off seven wins in eight games. The latest was a 58-55 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Monday courtesy of Damen Bell-Holter’s interception of a full-court pass and buzzer-beating 60-foot bank shot.
Dominique Morrison, a 6-foot-6 senior forward with 22 career 20-point games, averages 16.2 points. He’s a two-time first-team Summit League selection.
Michael Craion, a 6-5 senior forward, contributes 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. He’s essentially a returning starter but he missed nearly all of last season with a foot injury after earning conference newcomer of the year honors in 2010. The Golden Eagles basically had seven returning starters, but senior guard Ken Holdman suffered a torn ACL prior to the season.
“They’re a very good defensive team,” Few said. “They have lots of experience, tough, physical guys and a wing (Morrison) that many think is an NBA player.”