January 28, 2014 in Sports

As injuries heal, flu pops up

Zags continue to bide their time until all are healthy
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Gerard Coleman knows he has to fight for his minutes as players return to health on a deep Bulldogs team.
(Full-size photo)

Aches, pains and strains are fairly common two-thirds through a college basketball season. Gonzaga’s injury list is shrinking but it still hasn’t shaken the grip of the flu.

Freshman center Ryan Edwards (illness) missed practice Monday. Gerard Coleman, who missed the second half against San Diego and all of the BYU game, returned to practice. Kevin Pangos’ vocal cords weren’t operating at 100 percent, but said he feels OK otherwise.

GU opened the season with Drew Barham dealing with a knee injury and Edwards sidelined after a tonsillectomy. Angel Nunez became eligible under NCAA transfer rules for the Kansas State game on Dec., 21, the same day Sam Dower went down with a lower back injury. A week later, Gary Bell Jr. broke his right hand and sat out six games.

Coach Mark Few is hoping for the day when he has a full roster, but it wasn’t Monday, or last Saturday or last Thursday.

“The concern is this flu knocks guys out for 3-4 days,” Few said.

Every player has received a flu shot, Few said. He added that the locker room has been disinfected twice and players have been diligent about washing their hands.

Players said GU’s general student population has been hit pretty hard by the flu.

“I’m way better than I was three days ago,” Coleman said. “I’m trying to get my legs back underneath me. It just came out of nowhere. As soon as I came out of the (USD) game I just felt funny. I went to the locker room and threw up. I just had the chills.”

When Gonzaga reaches full strength, it will regain eight players who have seen significant time, from Pangos’ 34.9 minutes per game to Coleman’s 13.5. Nunez has averaged nearly 10 minutes in the last nine games. Edwards and freshman Luke Meikle have combined to play 89 minutes in 17 appearances.

“A lot of these guys that played very effectively have earned (minutes),” Few said. “We’ve been playing Kevin too many minutes and basically we’ve been getting lucky with foul trouble and things like that. Hopefully we can pick the times when we rest him and we can figure out what’s more effective, the bigger lineup or spreading them out with a smaller 4.”

Pangos has logged at least 33 minutes in every game since suffering a toe injury in early December.

“It’s a good problem (a deeper bench), as long as everyone realizes we have a lot of guys back and don’t complain about minutes,” Pangos said. “We can be something special and our team has always been good with that stuff.”

Coleman said he’ll state his case for playing time by “getting in and doing what I do. Trying to create for my teammates, score the ball and play defense.”

Gentle reminder

Robert Sacre once went through a 15-minute preseason scrimmage without grabbing a rebound. That stat was pointed out to him often by coaches and teammates in the ensuing days.

Senior forward Dower probably knows the feeling. He had another productive scoring night with 18 points against BYU, but just one rebound in 33 minutes.

“I heard it after the game,” said Dower, who is averaging 21.3 points over the last three games. “I’m pretty sure when we watch film I’m going to get it again and again and again. They’ve always been on me about rebounding so it’s just going to be worse. I’m going to put that game behind me and try to focus on the next one.”

Zags move up, down

Gonzaga’s 2-0 week resulted in a drop of three spots, to No. 24, in the USA Today rankings, voted on by 32 coaches. The Bulldogs (18-3, 8-1 WCC) stayed just outside the AP Top 25 for the third straight week. They’re 27th with 51 votes.


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