Numerous Gonzaga men’s basketball players insisted throughout the preseason that if they weren’t getting the job done, another man was waiting to take their place.
In Saturday’s exhibition game, five guys were at the ready. Substituting five at a time in hockey-like fashion, the Bulldogs put six players in double figures and overwhelmed Northwest Nazarene 93-45 in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Polish import Przemek Karnowski scored 17 points in 17 minutes in his GU debut. Elias Harris, returning from a groin injury, had 12 points while logging 13 first-half minutes. Gary Bell Jr. made three 3-pointers en route to 11 points. Guy Landry Edi, Kevin Pangos and Mike Hart each had 10 points and Kyle Dranginis finished with nine.
“I don’t know if we have a guy that can go out every night and get you 20,” head coach Mark Few said. “It comes with balance. That’s kind of how it’s been in practice, too. There are a lot of guys capable of upper double-figures scoring.
“Gary can shoot it like he did in first half, obviously we know Kevin can, we’ve all seen Sam (Dower). Elias can, we’ll get Kelly (Olynyk) back and he’ll be able to do that. Even as bad as ‘Shem’ (Karnowski) played early, he still got 17.”
The news wasn’t all positive. Olynyk, a junior forward, will miss the first three regular-season games for an undisclosed violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Olynyk will return for the Old Spice Classic after missing games against Southern Utah, West Virginia and South Dakota.
Olynyk, who has been allowed to practice, was in street clothes Saturday. He was off-limits to the media. Athletic director Mike Roth declined comment, citing university policy regarding matters involving student discipline.
The Bulldogs were jittery early but broke things open with 19 unanswered points. Pangos and Bell hit 3-pointers and Harris had a pair of layups as Gonzaga’s lead grew to 33-7 before Northwest Nazarene, an NCAA Division II school located in Nampa, Idaho, finally ended a 6-minute scoring drought.
“We went five in and five out because our rotation is definitely a better one,” Bell said. “Everyone can play in our program.”
Bell left the court early in the second half after “feeling something in my hamstring. It feels good now. Jen (Nyland, trainer) stretched me out and I think I could have gone back in.”
Harris returned to practice for an hour Wednesday and gradually went longer Thursday and Friday.
“I was just going to play 15, 20 minutes and call it good,” he said. “It’s a long season, no need to force it right now.”
Dranginis, a redshirt freshman from Nampa, had a productive night with nine points, five rebounds, one steal and one block.
“My older sister Carly (a senior middle blocker for Northwest Nazarene) had a volleyball game at NNU and I guess my parents were trying to watch both games,” he said. “They had a little TV with them.”
Jordan Nicholas led the Crusaders with 18 points. NNU made just 26.6 percent of its field-goal attempts and 2 of 15 3-pointers.