Few concerned about timing of Zags’ Thursday game

ORU’s Dominique Morrison, right, has 22 career 20-point games. (Associated Press)

It’s evident in Mark Few’s cautionary words.

Gonzaga’s men’s basketball coach has a list of concerns about tonight’s home matchup with Oral Roberts (KHQ, 6 p.m.), leading off with the fact that the Golden Eagles, preseason favorites in the Summit League, are a talented team.

“Anytime a team returns six starters, a veteran team that is athletic and physical, that would scare me on the first day of the season or the last,” Few said. “Stack that in with finals and bunch of my guys have never taking college finals before, how they’re getting through those, getting rest and taking care of themselves, it’s going to be a challenge.

“This is the only place (in the schedule) we could fit this game in.”

It’s a tight fit, considering Gonzaga (5-2) has a showdown with Arizona on Saturday afternoon in Seattle.

Several Bulldogs have finals today, some as late as 3:30. Tip-off is at 6.

Gonzaga has dropped two straight, committing 36 turnovers and allowing 53.7-percent shooting in losses to Illinois and Michigan State.

“Mental breakdowns are where we’re giving up a lot of those shots and that’s what is driving those percentages up,” said sophomore guard David Stockton, GU’s second-leading scorer over the last four games (13.3 points). “Other than that, we need to be able to get stops late in games.”

Oral Roberts (7-3) dropped its first two games to West Virginia and Texas-San Antonio before rattling off seven wins in eight games. The latest was a 58-55 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Monday, courtesy of Damen Bell-Holter’s interception of a full-court pass and buzzer-beating 60-foot bank shot.

Dominique Morrison, a 6-foot-6 senior forward with 22 career 20-point games, averages 16.2 points. He’s a two-time first-team Summit League selection.

Michael Craion, a 6-5 senior forward, contributes 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. He’s essentially a returning starter, but he missed nearly all of last season with a foot injury after earning conference Newcomer of the Year honors in 2010. The Golden Eagles had seven returning starters, but senior guard Ken Holdman suffered a torn ACL prior to the season.

“They’re a very good defensive team,” Few said. “They have lots of experience, tough, physical guys and a wing (Morrison) that many think is an NBA player.”

Special visitor at practice

 Gonzaga had a special visitor at Tuesday’s practice in 11-year-old Brandon Bird, a two-time cancer survivor who is battling a third recurrence.

 Head coach Mark Few quickly made his way over to talk to Brandon and was soon followed by players and assistant coaches.

 Brandon gave the team an autographed GU hat and a framed picture from when the players visited him on the day after Thanksgiving. The following day, Brandon was courtside at the Spokane Arena for the Ronald McDonald House Charities Classic, where he bumped fists with GU forward Elias Harris.

 “Rob (Sacre, GU center) and Brandon had a great conversation about ‘Star Wars’ and their favorite characters because he’s a big fan,” Brandon’s mom, Jo Lynn, said. “They’ve all been great. They say, ‘Hi,’ to him and he says, ‘They’re my friends.’ ”

 While the team was in the locker room watching video, Brandon was having his picture taken at center court.

 “He got a Gonzaga blanket for an early Christmas present and he uses it every day,” Jo Lynn said.

 “He couldn’t see it, but he felt the embroidery and knew right away what it was. He’s completely blind now and he still knew, so it was kind of neat.”

Jim Meehan


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