If the itinerary for the Gonzaga men’s basketball team sounds familiar – win in Spokane on New Year’s Eve, jet across the country for a nationally televised game less than two days later – it probably should. The Bulldogs did roughly the same thing a year ago.
Gonzaga thumped Oklahoma at the Spokane Arena on Dec. 31, 2009, then hopped on a plane the next morning to face Illinois in Chicago 36 hours later. GU pulled out an 85-83 win.
Gonzaga will try to duplicate that accomplishment today at 10 a.m. PST against Wake Forest at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., taking the floor about 37 hours after the buzzer sounded on Friday’s win over Oklahoma State at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“It’s going to be a tough deal, especially with this turnaround,” said Bulldogs coach Mark Few, who collected his 300th career win Friday. “Thank goodness for the generosity of the donors that helped us with the (charter) plane. If we had to go commercial, we’d have no shot.”
Gonzaga (9-5), with a five-game winning streak, faces its last nonconference test before opening WCC play against Portland on Saturday. The Bulldogs traveled 2,050 miles to take on the struggling Demon Deacons (6-7), who are the only ACC team with a losing record.
Wake Forest has dropped three straight, to Xavier, Presbyterian and Richmond. The Demon Deacons return just one starter (sophomore guard C.J. Harris) and four letterwinners from last year’s team, which knocked off Gonzaga 77-75 in the McCarthey Athletic Center. Harris scored 19 points and Ari Stewart made four 3-pointers and added 17 points off the bench.
The momentum shifted late in the first half with Gonzaga leading by nine when Elias Harris was ejected for a forearm to the neck of Wake Forest senior Chas McFarland.
Five Demon Deacons average in double figures, led by guard J.T. Terrell (13.7 points) and freshman forward Travis McKie (13.5). Senior guard Gary Clark has made 25 of 37 3-pointers (67.6 percent). Wake Forest is 51-9 in its last 60 home games.
“We can’t underestimate them,” GU forward Kelly Olynyk said. “They’re playing at home with lots of energy. Hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling.”
Hyland leaves program: Freshman Keegan Hyland left the Bulldogs’ program, Few confirmed. The 6-foot-3 guard from Portland, Maine, didn’t play in a game this season and his practice time was limited by health issues (knee, concussion). Hyland has requested a release to several schools in the New England area.
With Gonzaga’s numbers at guard/wing and a guard-heavy 2011 recruiting class, it figured to be difficult for Hyland to crack the playing rotation.