For the fifth time in five games, the Gonzaga Bulldogs rolled to an easy West Coast Conference victory.
But the players who keyed the win, and one who didn’t, were the biggest news on a night the Zags blew out Portland 103-57 before 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
What they saw …
Though one of the usual KHQ troika was missing, his name came up often at one point Thursday night.
That would be Dan Dickau, the Gonzaga record-holder for 3-pointers made in a single game.
Greg Heister and Richard Fox mentioned him because Silas Melson threatened Dickau’s mark of nine by hitting a career-high seven 3-pointers, which led to the senior guard’s career high of 23 points.
“A good response,” is how Fox described Melson’s exceptional night, alluding, perhaps, to the weekend in Los Angeles, in which Melson was 2-of-9 shooting, including just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc.
“He’s struggled lately, with the 3-point shot in particular,” Fox continued. “He’s an experienced player and he’s not going to stop shooting the ball.”
Especially with Portland (6-12, 0-5 in WCC play) sitting in a 2-3 zone that had more holes than Spokane streets in March. After a pass or two, there always seemed to be a Zag open on the perimeter. That led to 35 3-point attempts. Outside of Melson, though, no one was extremely accurate, as the other 11 Zags who played combined for just six makes.
The longer shots were available, in large part, because Rui Hachimura and, to a lesser degree, Killian Tillie, were directing the offense from the high post.
Hachimura was nearly perfect from the free-throw area, passing when needed but also attacking the basket. The 6-foot-8 sophomore finished with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
“He’s really very, very effective when teams go to a 2-3 zone,” Fox said. “He can play the high post. (And) he’s become a better passer and with his athleticism and his length, he’s just very difficult to deal with on the baseline.”
“He gets a defensive rebound, his first look should be to bring the ball up the court,” Fox said late in the first half when Hachimura went coast-to-coast. “He’s typically matched up with a big, and post player. … He’s going to have the advantage in the open court.”
The play Fox was describing, however, was a little atypical in that regard. With 4 minutes, 15 seconds left in the half, Hachimura was playing a wing, as Tillie and Johnathan Williams were on the court as well.
No matter. Hachimura looked a bit like another 6-8 player, Magic Johnson, as he weaved his way to the rim for another transition layup as the mainly staid crowd cheered.
A few moments later, though, the crowd was nearly silent. The reason was simple: Williams was down on the court after banging knees and shins with Portland’s JoJo Walker.
“That took any life that was in the arena, out,” Fox said of the student-less crowd.
What we saw …
One of the best parts of being at home, watching on television, is learning information that usually isn’t shared with the McCarthey crowd. We were able to see Williams smiling while talking with the trainer and Heister mentioned he was riding the stationary bike quite a bit prior to relaying the official word that he seemed to be OK.
Williams returned to the bench with just more than 17 minutes left but did not return to the game.
It didn’t matter. The 15th-ranked Zags (15-3, 5-0) were so far ahead – coming in, the Bulldogs were winning by almost 33 points a game in conference games – just about everyone played. And that includes former manager Brian Pete, who had the honor of scoring the 100th and 101st points on a baseline jumper off a nice Jeremy Jones pass with 49.7 seconds left.
The bench, including Williams, Melson and Hachimura, went nuts. It was Pete’s first Gonzaga basket.