Gonzaga’s season-opening men’s basketball victory over Eastern Washington was barely 20 minutes old Friday night, but the Bulldogs already knew what would be on the list of drills for tonight’s game against Washington State.
“We’re playing against a similar type team,” senior guard Marquise Carter said. “They like to hit 3s. In practice we’re just going to adjust, work on close-outs, work on picking up 3-point shooters.”
EWU made 13 of 29 3-pointers but Gonzaga closed with a 13-4 run to claim a 77-69 victory. WSU, which will be playing its season opener at the McCarthey Athletic Center, stifled Gonzaga’s offense and drained 11 of 21 3s in an 81-59 win last season in Pullman.
Gonzaga has won 9 of the last 12, with the three Cougar wins coming in the last five years.
“It’ll be as competitive as it gets,” WSU coach Ken Bone said.
The Cougars, led by Klay Thompson, went 22-13 last season and advanced to the NIT semifinals. Several key pieces return, including starters Reggie Moore, Abe Lodwick and Marcus Capers, as well as Faisal Aden, the top returning scorer at 12.7 per game. Moore (groin strain), Aden (concussion) and Lodwick (foot sprain) missed WSU’s exhibition victory over Lewis-Clark State on Nov. 5. Aden has been cleared to play tonight, but Lodwick and Moore are questionable.
Thompson and forward DeAngelo Casto opted to skip their senior seasons to turn pro. Thompson, who averaged 21.6 points per game, was drafted 11th overall by Golden State. Casto, the team leader in rebounding (6.8 per game) and blocks (59), is playing in Turkey.
“It’s another emotional game with a local rival that plays very similar to (Eastern Washington),” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We’re built for power and that (EWU) team is built for speed and 3-point shooting, which the Cougars are very much the same, a very perimeter-oriented team.”
Bulldogs senior center Robert Sacre and junior forward Elias Harris combined for 38 points and 18 rebounds against EWU. Carter (17 points) and freshman guard Kevin Pangos (11) also scored in double figures.
“They have as good a frontcourt as most any team in the country,” Bone said. “They’re not only really good, but they can go at least four deep.”