With the exception of an exhibition game and a scrimmage against Texas, Gonzaga men’s basketball players have been practicing against each other for nearly a month.
“It gets old,” senior center Robert Sacre said.
That changes tonight when the Bulldogs open the regular season against Eastern Washington at 8 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The Eagles, guided by new head coach Jim Hayford, didn’t have an exhibition game.
The GU women open their regular season against visiting Hofstra at 4 p.m.
Gonzaga has won 23 straight against EWU.
“In all honesty we can’t call it a rivalry, because Eastern hasn’t kept its end of the deal to make it a rivalry,” Hayford said. “We are going to use this opportunity to go out and play hard.”
The Bulldogs open with high expectations under 13th-year head coach Mark Few. With an experienced frontcourt and promising newcomers in the backcourt, 23rd-ranked Gonzaga is favored to win its 12th straight West Coast Conference title, according to the coaches’ preseason poll.
“I’m sure (the Eagles) are very tired of hearing all the pub and talk about our guys and would like nothing better than to knock them off,” Few said. “Eastern is a team that’s been peaking for this year. They took their lumps as freshmen and sophomores and now they’re juniors and seniors. They’ll be a good challenge for us.”
Under Few, Gonzaga has won 79.2 percent of its games. A few seasons after Few was promoted to head coach at GU, Hayford was hired at Whitworth. The Pirates had eight 20-win seasons in Hayford’s 10 years. He guided Whitworth to six NCAA Division III tournaments, including the last five, while compiling a .792 winning percentage.
EWU was 10-20 last season, but the Eagles return experienced guards in Cliff Colimon, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford. Senior forwards Laron Griffin and Cliff Ederaine started last season and 6-foot-7 senior Tremayne Johnson returns after averaging 10 points as a part-time starter.