Gonzaga enjoyed week of respite
There are no bye weeks in college basketball. Teams might have an extended break, perhaps during Finals week or over the Christmas holiday.
Other than that, players generally don’t go too many days without a practice, conditioning session or game. Once the conference season starts, those breaks become rarer as schools typically fall into a schedule of two games per week – home one week, usually on the road the next.
Gonzaga has enjoyed a bit of a break with a week between WCC games. The eighth-ranked Bulldogs (16-1, 3-0 WCC), who defeated Saint Mary’s last Thursday, had a few days to decompress before getting back to work for Thursday’s game at Portland. Then it’s off to Indianapolis for a showdown with No. 13 Butler on Saturday.
“We focused on ourselves for a couple of practices and really tried to improve on our weaknesses,” sophomore guard Kevin Pangos said. “My body was a little sore, so having the rest was nice.”
The timing of the break was ideal for a number of reasons. The Bulldogs endured a tough stretch on their schedule with a seven-day road trip sandwiched around home games with Baylor and Saint Mary’s. They face two-game weeks the rest of the regular season.
“It was a really good time,” coach Mark Few said. “Thinking back over the years, it was definitely right up there with when we needed a break. We’ve been doing a good job of pacing them, but we needed a mental break. We’ve just been trying to tee it up game after game and if we didn’t we were going to get beat.”
Not that the schedule gets any easier. The Pilots, under coach Eric Reveno, always seem to be a handful for Gonzaga at the Chiles Center. Butler is 14-2, with wins over then-No. 1 Indiana, Marquette and North Carolina. Gonzaga returns home next week to face conference-leading BYU (14-4, 4-0).
Butler will be without senior guard Rotnei Clarke, who averages a team-high 16.3 points, against Richmond on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday. Clarke, fouled hard by a Dayton player on a layup attempt, suffered a sprained neck after a head-first collision into a padded basket stanchion
Clarke, the all-time leading scorer in Oklahoma prep basketball with 3,758 points, visited Gonzaga on a recruiting trip before signing with Arkansas. He also had offers from Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis. At Arkansas, Clarke averaged in double figures for three seasons and scored 51 points against Alcorn State. He earned second-team All-SEC honors as a junior, but opted to leave the program.
GU took another look at Clarke, but the Zags were pretty well stocked at the guard position.
“He could shoot and he was just a gym rat,” Bulldogs assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We probably got a release (after Clarke left Arkansas), but we already had Kevin (Pangos) and Gary (Bell) and with him only having one year (of eligibility) to play, that all probably factored in.”
Under NCAA transfer, rules, Clarke sat out last season. He has made 44 percent of his 3-point attempts this season. He ranks seventh nationally with 59 made 3s.
Angel Nunez, the newest Zag, was expected to arrive in Spokane on Tuesday. The 6-foot-8 transfer from Louisville is recovering from a November concussion and he hasn’t been cleared to practice. He said in a phone interview roughly three weeks ago that he is slowly returning to the court.
Nunez will sit out one season under NCAA transfer rules. The sophomore from Washington Heights, N.Y., is expected to be eligible for spring semester of the 2013-14 season.