Gonzaga essentially shifts gears every January when it leaves behind its rugged non-league schedule for a different challenge in the West Coast Conference.
“The thing we always face at Gonzaga is we’ve tried to build this team for these national opponents that are athletic, big and strong,” coach Mark Few said. “We get in our conference and we end up facing highly skilled teams – 4s can shoot 3s, sometimes 5s that can shoot 3s, and they space out on the 3-point line so it’s a little different game. We’ve always been able to make the adjustment year to year, but that’s kind of what we’re in the process of doing.”
The Bulldogs are 13-1, including 5-0 against the Big 12, in non-conference games with a Jan. 19 date against No. 14 Butler remaining. Gonzaga plays at Portland next Thursday. The Bulldogs had hoped the game would be moved to Wednesday to allow an extra day of preparation before traveling to Indianapolis.
“We feel like we get everyone’s best game (in conference),” guard Kevin Pangos said. “They’re gunning for us and that’s kind of what it felt like last week.
“Both teams played really hard, their crowds were into it. That’s what it’s going to be like going forward, especially on the road.”
Opposing crowds haven’t been shy about razzing Gonzaga junior forward Kelly Olynyk for his long locks. Santa Clara’s students chanted “Get a Haircut” on several occasions.
“If that’s what they want to focus on, that’s fine with me,” Olynyk said. “It takes the (focus) off my other teammates.”
Olynyk said Washington State’s student section lobbed the most verbal jabs. Oklahoma State, minus many of its students due to the holiday break, was the most polite.
“Oklahoma State was really positive and cheered for their team rather than against the other team,” Olynyk said. “It was kind of interesting.”