After three months of conditioning, practice, games and rare days off, the Gonzaga men’s basketball team is ready for a break.
The 14th-ranked Bulldogs thumped Campbell 74-52 in front of 6,000 Wednesday at the McCarthey Athletic Center to close the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule. Many of the players will be at the airport this morning, catching flights home for the holiday before resuming practice Christmas Day.
“It’ll be extremely nice to get home and see family and really relax and refocus,” said senior forward Elias Harris, who is headed to Houston. “I wish we were 12-0 but against Illinois we didn’t play our best, didn’t play smart and that’s what we deserved in that game.
“I think we can be happy where we are – happy, but not satisfied. We have good teams coming up and then we go into conference and we have to redeem ourselves from last year. We have a lot more challenges coming up.”
Gonzaga (11-1) opened up a 27-point lead late in the first half and led by as many as 31 in the second half. The Camels (3-8), members of the Big South Conference, battled to the buzzer, despite not having the services of leading scorer Darren White. He’s has missed the last four games with a hand injury.
“I thought we played pretty good defensively throughout, held them to 32 percent shooting and we were pretty darn efficient on offense, especially in the first half when we kind of put the game away,” coach Mark Few said. “Good job by the guys getting to the break with only one loss with such a daunting schedule and now we get a little time off to recharge our batteries.”
Freshman center Przemek Karnowski made his first start and responded with a team-high 14 points. Kelly Olynyk connected on all 10 of his free throws and scored 12 points. Harris added 11 points and a career-high six assists. Gary Bell Jr. scored nine of his 11 points in the first half when Gonzaga took control.
Eleven Zags played and nine scored. Ten players logged at least 15 minutes. GU pressed full-court early and forced nine of Campbell’s 15 turnovers in the first half. Gonzaga had a 12-2 advantage in points off turnovers en route to a 49-24 halftime lead. Kevin Pangos had five of Gonzaga’s 13 steals.
“We were really pitiful in defensive transition early and their press. … I was not expecting to be pressed,” Camels coach Robbie Laing said. “Their press was way more effective than I thought it would be.”
Campbell, led by Trey Freeman’s 17 points and four assists, was patient offensively, often draining most of the time off the 35-second shot clock. The Camels hit 7 of 14 3-pointers, but they were overmatched inside. Gonzaga outscored Campbell 44-8 in points in the paint.
The Bulldogs entertain Baylor on Dec. 28, then visit No. 24 Oklahoma State to start a week-long road trip that ends with their first two WCC games.
“We think it’s coming together good, that’s why we made a promise to the team that we can’t let up for these few days we’re at home,” junior forward Sam Dower said. “We have to get in the gym, keep conditioning and getting our shots up. We have too much to lose.”
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