Harris, Olynyk, Bell power Zags to undefeated WCC season
One by one, the Gonzaga Bulldogs keep reaching milestones and Saturday was no exception.
The second-ranked Bulldogs thumped Portland 81-52 to finish off their first 16-0 WCC men’s basketball season. They moved closer to the program’s first 30-win season and they’re poised to earn the first No. 1 ranking in school history when the polls come out Monday.
Along the way, they treated seniors Elias Harris, Mike Hart and Guy Landry Edi to a special afternoon in their final appearances at the McCarthey Athletic Center in front of a customary sellout crowd of 6,000.
Hart fought back tears when he was introduced in pregame ceremonies. He had a catch in his voice when he addressed the fans following the game.
“I was thinking of my parents and seeing a bunch of friends in the stands and realizing this was the last one here,” Hart said. “You think halfway through your career that time is taking forever and you’ve been here forever. Now that it’s my fifth year and this is my last game, it’s, ‘Geez, where did it go?’“
Harris came in with a new ‘do and left with a new necklace – the net Gonzaga cut down afterward for winning the WCC title. In between, Harris piled up 20 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
“I’ve been growing it out for a while. Everybody has been asking me how long my hair is, so I thought let me pick it out for my senior night so people know how long it is,” Harris said. “I’m going to keep the net, unless Coach (Mark) Few wants it.”
Edi, whose playing time has declined in WCC play, was back in the starting lineup and nearly had a spectacular dunk, but he was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws.
“I had to make this day special. I’m sad it’s coming to an end, but I enjoyed this time with my teammates,” Edi said. “All my frustrations and everything, I tried to put it out there” on the attempted dunk.
The Bulldogs (29-2, 16-0 WCC) had 14-0 conference marks in 2004, 2006 and 2009.
“Obviously the addition of BYU (two years ago) makes it very difficult to pull it off,” Few said. “We started it way back in January at Pepperdine with a huge bull’s-eye on our chest after beating Oklahoma State and we played every game with a huge bull’s-eye on our chest. We played pretty darn well in almost all of them.”
That was the case against the Pilots (11-20, 4-12). Gonzaga broke it open with an early 24-5 run. GU had 13 assists, just four turnovers and a 61.3 shooting percentage while building a 46-27 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs finished with 20 assists, six by David Stockton, five by Kevin Pangos and four by Kelly Olynyk, who had 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Olynyk, the talented 7-foot junior, said he’s “not even close” to making a decision on whether he’ll enter the NBA draft. The student section chanted “one more year” when Olynyk took his turn cutting down the net.
“Pangos and a couple other guys were joking, ‘Have fun on your Senior Night,’“ Olynyk said. “The great thing about my situation is whatever happens happens, if not I always have a place to come back next year.”
Portland made just 29 percent of its shots. Derrick Rodgers had 10 points and Gonzaga Prep grad Ryan Nicholas added nine points and nine rebounds.
Gonzaga held a 42-10 edge in points in the paint. The Zags also made eight 3s, four by Gary Bell Jr. and two by Pangos.
“It was a lot of fun, not just playing in front of my dad, but just the whole environment and the love people give you,” Harris said. “It’s unbelievable here. I’m going to miss it 100 percent.”
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