For a few moments two of Mark Few’s favorite things, basketball and fishing, came together at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Just before the tipoff of Friday’s exhibition basketball game, Simon Fraser coach James Blake shook hands with Few and handed the Gonzaga coach a book – “A River Never Sleeps” – by noted fisherman/author Roderick Haig-Brown.
“Mark is a big angler; my brother is a big steelhead fisher in B.C.,” Blake said. “Anglers seem to know each other and there are no borders. Hey, we’re really grateful to play them.”
And that was after Blake’s NCAA Division II squad absorbed a 103-68 loss to the Bulldogs in front of 6,000.
“That was nice of him,” Few said. “I didn’t have anything for him, maybe a stick of gum on me, but it sounds like a really good book.”
It’ll be reading material for another day, but Few’s first order of business will be going through tape of the Zags’ exhibition opener, which turned out to be the mismatch most expected against the visitors from Burnaby, B.C.
The Bulldogs scored the first 15 points. Simon Fraser missed its first 16 shots before Justin Cole hit a 3-pointer with 12:32 remaining. GU sophomore center Przemek Karnowski swatted three shots in the first three minutes, and the Bulldogs, with a big lift off the bench from wing Gerard Coleman and senior forward Sam Dower Jr. dominating in the paint, rolled to a 52-28 halftime lead.
Coleman, the Providence transfer who sat out last season, entered the game and the pace immediately picked up as he scored three baskets, pulled down three rebounds and fed Kevin Pangos for an open 3-pointer in transition.
Coleman finished with 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting to go with five rebounds.
“Oh, what a feeling, a great feeling,” Coleman said. “I’ve been waiting a year for it and I really enjoyed it. Coach Few says (the open court) is my forte. What’s big about it is if they’re focusing on me going all the way, if they want to suck in, I can kick it to the shooters.”
Dower poured in 16 points in the first half and ended with 20 points and 12 rebounds, the latter a career high. Karnowski just missed a double-double with 13 points and nine boards, and freshman center Ryan Edwards added 13 points in 14 minutes.
The Bulldogs, with limited depth in the front court, want to run as much as possible. They also showed a variety of combinations, including a three-guard starting lineup with David Stockton, Gary Bell Jr. and Pangos; Dower and Karnowski playing together or utilizing one big surrounded by three guards and a stretch “4” in Drew Barham.
“We definitely have different styles we can play,” Dower said. “We can go big with me and ‘Shem’ or small.”
Gonzaga made 62 percent of its shots and worked over SFU’s smaller interior, resulting in 30 free-throw attempts. The Bulldogs made just 4 of 16 3s, but nearly all were quality looks.
On a couple of occasions, Simon Fraser scored only to watch Gonzaga race down court for an easy basket, once after a made free throw.
“We’re a lot more wing-oriented, guard-oriented,” Pangos said. “We have a few bigs, but we have to get out and run.”