November 26, 2011 in Sports

Gonzaga beats Western Michigan at Arena

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Western Michigan’s, from left, Matt Stainbrook (40), Mike Douglas (5) and Shayne Whittington (21) defend against Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos (4) as he looks to pass in the second half of Saturday’s game at the Arena.
(Full-size photo)

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are just four games into the men’s college basketball season but a couple of trends appear to be emerging.

All were present as 19th-ranked Gonzaga hung a 78-58 loss on road-weary Western Michigan in front of 9,610 Saturday at the Arena in the annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Classic.

For the fourth straight game the Bulldogs:

Put four players in double figures. Robert Sacre and Sam Dower each had 15 points.

Had at least one double-figures scorer come off the bench. Saturday it was two as David Stockton (10 points) joined Dower in double digits.

Weren’t always aesthetically pleasing but they kept grinding away, which has helped them overcome some sluggish stretches and generally finish games strong.

“We haven’t had a scrimmage, an exhibition or anything that’s really been all that pretty,” head coach Mark Few said. “But guys are doing different things against us, doubling off people, not guarding people or mucking it up in there. That’s the best thing about this. All four teams have played us totally different and we’ve seen a variety of things.”

The Bulldogs were in command from the outset, leading by 10 with 11 minutes left in the first half. The margin grew to 12 after a 7-0 spurt fueled by Dower’s midrange jumper, Stockton’s 3-pointer and Sacre’s jump hook.

Western Michigan (0-6), which has yet to play at home, held Gonzaga without a field goal for nearly seven minutes and pared Gonzaga’s lead to 30-28. The Broncos had a chance to tie but 6-foot-10 Shayne Whittington missed from close range.

Gonzaga regrouped to score the last six points of the half and take a 36-28 lead. An 8-0 run – six points by Sacre – created a 52-34 advantage with 12:20 remaining and GU led by at least 14 the rest of the way.

“You have to grind it out and battle,” said junior forward Mike Hart, who contributed six points and a team-high seven rebounds. “It doesn’t have to be pretty as long as you get the ‘W’.”

Gonzaga (4-0) flexed its bench strength as Stockton, summoned when Kevin Pangos struggled early, hit a pair of 3s, scored eight points, handed out four assists and had two steals in 14 first-half minutes.

“David almost pitched a perfect game on offense,” said Few, glancing at Stockton’s stat line.

Dower, who scored 10 points in the first three games, delivered 15 points and six rebounds. Elias Harris scored eight of his 10 points in the second half and Marquise Carter chipped in nine points and four assists.

“There was just the opportunity to score in this game, which I haven’t seen as much of in other games,” Dower said. “I tried to score as much as I could, but I also wanted to play well overall, play good defense, rebound and block shots.”

The Bulldogs converted 22 Western Michigan turnovers into 25 points. GU has outscored its last two opponents 59-9 in points off turnovers. Center Matt Stainbrook led WMU with 11 points and six rebounds. He was the only player in double digits as the Broncos made just 41.7 percent of their shots.

Gonzaga set season bests for shooting percentage (52.6, the previous best was 41.1), assists (18), steals (11), and fewest turnovers (nine).

“Rob got the ball point-blank a lot, Sam did, too. The guards were moving the ball pretty good and we had a good week spending time on that,” Few said. “It’s going to be interesting. We got through this one phase where these opponents were probably tougher and better than most people realize. Now we’re in this stretch in December where we have some really high-level opponents.”

The Zags entertain Notre Dame on Wednesday before facing their first road game, at Illinois, on Saturday.

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