Day after Saint Mary’s

Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos heads to the basket in the first half. He finished with 22 points. (COLIN MULVANY PHOTOS)

Good morning. A lot of items to link to and get to in my day-after Saint Mary's post. Gonzaga relinquished nearly all of a 20-point lead before holding off the Gaels 83-78 last night.

Links: My game story, John Blanchette's column and Colin Mulvany's photo gallery. More coverage from the Seattle Times, San Jose Mercury News, Tacoma News Tribune and A.P.

Can't argue with Andy Katz pointing out that Kelly Olynyk should be on the Wooden Award midseason Top 25. For that matter, Matthew Dellavedova should be among the Cousy Award's 20 finalists (he was top 5 last year and his stats are better this season). The WCC player of the year race is going to be a close one between Olynyk, Dellavedova and BYU's Brandon Davies.

Read on.


—For the first 20-25 minutes, the Bulldogs showed why they’re heavily favored to return to the top rung of the WCC ladder. For the last 15 minutes, two-time defending champ Saint Mary’s showed it won’t hand over the title without a fight.

“They didn’t give up,” GU forward Sam Dower said. “We made some mistakes on defense and that got their momentum going, their confidence going and they were going hard to the glass on every possession.”

The conventional wisdom is that the Gaels don’t quite have the supporting cast of previous years, especially after the graduation of Rob Jones, but they certainly found a number of scoring sources to nearly overcome a rare off night by standout guard Matthew Dellavedova.

Stephen Holt, a high school teammate of Mike Hart’s at Jesuit in Portland, hit runners, leaners, drove with confidence and buried 3s. He triggered the Gaels’ second-half comeback, which started with the ineffective Dellavedova on the bench.

Other Gaels contributed, including Beau Levesque, who made two 3s, 5 of 7 shots and scored 14 points in just 17 minutes. Brad Waldow and Kyle Rowley showed up in the second half and combined to finish with 18 points (8 of 12 FGs) and nine boards.

—Credit Gary Bell Jr. and GU’s bigs for a fine defensive effort on Dellavedova, who missed his first five shots and didn’t score until nearly 11 minutes into the first half. He had all nine of his second-half points in the final 6:47 to finish with 14 points, but he made just 4 of 15 shots, 2 of 9 from long distance. Perhaps more importantly, he had just three assists (he averages 6.7 per game) and four turnovers.

The Zags hedged hard on ball screens, often doubling Dellavedova for a couple of seconds to allow the primary defender to recover. Often, that leads to an increase in Dellavedova’s assist total, but GU limited the damage.

Still, Dellavedova simply had a tough shooting night, missing a number of open looks.

“I didn’t play very well,” said Dellavedova, shortly after visiting with fellow Australian Brock Motum. The Cougars center attended the game.

—The last minute featured three bizarre calls by the officials during a second half bogged down by 24 combined fouls. The irony is when Gonzaga wanted to give a foul on purpose – Bell tried to foul Dellavedova before he could release a potential tying 3-pointer – it wasn’t called. Dellavedova missed an open 21-footer and GU escaped with the win.

Prior to that, a jump ball was called when Elias Harris reached in after Dellavedova pulled down a defensive rebound. Harris got more of Dellavedova’s arm than the ball, but GU got the benefit of the call. Seconds later, it went the other way. Mike Hart was securing an offensive rebound when a Gael darted in and knocked the ball out of bounds. It was either a foul or GU’s possession, but the officials ruled SMC ball.

—Gonzaga has several concerns after this one. No. 1, the Zags have simply been outworked, outhustled and outplayed for long stretches in WCC play by Pepperdine (first half) and Saint Mary’s (second half). The Zags have been getting beat on most 50-50 balls. It reinforces Few’s often-stated message that this isn’t his most talented team. It may be his best team – time will tell – but it’s not one that can coast in terms of effort.

That goes hand-in-hand with concern No. 2: Rebounding. The Zags have been outboarded in three straight games (Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s). Gonzaga played solid defense on numerous possessions in those three games, but was unable to finish it off with a defensive rebound. Opponents have made them pay. Few things are more frustrating than guarding well for 30 seconds, then having to try to do it again after surrendering an offensive rebound.

Saint Mary’s won the boards, 39-27. It was 21-9 in the second half, 10-2 on the offensive glass. The last time Gonzaga was outrebounded by more than 12 was by Memphis (by 14) in the 2008-09 season. Three times since GU has been outrebounded by 12.

Asked about SMC’s offensive rebounding, Few said part of the problem was, “We were doing some things where the guards have to rotate down and block out 7-foot guys.” Few added, “But I think they had two rebounds on missed free throws, and we’d been darned good at that. And we had two or three they just took from us.”

—And yet, despite the trouble spots to surface of late, it’s hard to ignore that Gonzaga is 16-1, ranked ninth and has maintained its poise in crunch time to pull out several white-knuckle wins. That’s a skill that can’t be overlooked. It is, after all, the bottom line. As one assistant noted afterward, it’s a lot easier to offer teaching points in practice following a win than a loss. In a seven-game winning streak, every one but Campbell (74-52) has been hard-earned, beginning with Baylor on Dec. 28.

“I told them that they have done a heck of a job to get to 16-1,” Few said. “This has just been an emotional game after emotional game after emotional game. It’s very difficult to do that. I don’t know how many teams thus far through the season have done that, if any that have faced as many hard, tough, you-better-be-way-up-to-play type of games or you are going to get beat. They have done a remarkable job of that.

“Now we have a week until our next one and we need to rest our bodies and our minds, then get geared up for another big week.”

STATS OF NOTE

—David Stockton handed out seven assists, five in the first half, tying his career high.

—GU’s bigs, led by Olynyk’s 31 and Harris’ 13, combined for 56 points.

—Kyle Dranginis didn’t play, his first DNP this season.

—SMC made just 7 of 27 3s (26 percent).

—The Gaels attempted more free throws than Gonzaga, becoming just the second team to do so (WSU had 18 FTs to GU’s 15). SMC was 15 of 23, Gonzaga 15 of 18 (including four in the final 13 seconds when the Gaels were forced to foul).

—Gonzaga’s 1s, 2s and 3s (Pangos, Bell, Stockton, Edi and Hart) had zero turnovers. The bigs had all eight of GU’s turnovers, five committed by Olynyk.

—Pangos played all 40 minutes.

Bell scored a season-low 3 points. He made 1 of 5 shots (1 of 4 from 3).

QUOTEBOOK

Dellavedova: “We just had to play harder defensively (in the second half). Our bigs did a great job in the second half, getting after it and rebounding and our guards helped out a little bit more.”

Olynyk, on becoming the first Zag since Adam Morrison to have two 30-point games in one season (Olynyk had 33 points against Santa Clara on Saturday): “That’s great company to be in.”

Few: “Maybe we have been in enough close games that it would be nice to have a 30- or 40-point blowout. It has positives and negatives.” 

Few, on defending Dellavedova: “We mixed up some things on ball screen that made him throw to other people and those guys had to make plays. But he’s a smart player. It’s, ‘You do this, I’m gonna do that.’ He also made a big 3 out of an out-of-bounds play that made things interesting.”

Olynyk, on the first half: “We came out strong. The offense was clicking, our defense was working. If you put two halves together like that, then you’re playing solid basketball. That’s what we need to get to by the end of the year because that’s what you’re going to need at the tournament. We’re still striving for that.”


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