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Monday, October 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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No. 1 is Gonzaga’s No. 1 priority

Klay Thompson wears uniform No. 1 and he's presumably the No. 1 concern on Gonzaga's scouting report. The sophomore forward has led Washington State in scoring in all six games, with his lowest total a 20-point effort in 28 minutes.

Read on for my unedited WSU-GU preview that will run in Wednesday's paper. I've attached some notes at the top from Monday's media day prior to the advance.

--Gonzaga senior guard Matt Bouldin's history with WSU has been interesting. He was battling illness prior to last year's game. The year before, he was completely shut down by ex-Cougar Kyle Weaver.

"I think that was the sickest I've ever been before a game," Bouldin said of the '09 contest in which he scored eight points in 29 minutes. "I had IVs in an hour before the game. I couldn't believe I played that much."

Bouldin was 0 for 9 in the 2008 game.

"First time ever scoring zero points in a college game," Bouldin said. 

--WSU is playing at a faster pace under head coach Ken Bone than previous coach Tony Bennett. The Cougars have scored at least 87 points in four of six games.

Said Few: "In some areas, yeah (surprised). Certainly in some areas were still lagging behind."

--The Gonzaga-Cincinnati game was one of the more physical GU has encountered. Freshman forward Elias Harris didn't mind a bit.

"It wasn't much different than the European championship level," said Harris, who played for the German national team over the summer. "That's very physical. When you play against Russia, France, that's normal. That's my type of game. I like that."

Here's the advance ...

San Diego coach Bill Grier felt virtually powerless as he watched Washington State sophomore forward Klay Thompson score 43 points on his Toreros in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout.

“If you watched the game, it didn’t look like we guarded him at all,” Grier said of Thompson, who had 31 points in the second half as WSU won, 93-56, Saturday. “We had no answer for him. We just don’t have any wings with his size. Even if we had a guy draped on him it was like we weren’t there.”

Thompson leads the Cougars (6-0) against 17th-ranked Gonzaga (5-1) tonight at 6 at the McCarthey Athletic Center. Early on, the Bulldogs have been solid defensively and fairly adept at taking scouting reports from the chalkboard to the court.

The 6-foot-6, 200-pound Thompson averages 28.3 points, tops in the nation. He’s made 56.3 percent of his shots, 56.8 percent of his 3-pointers and 80.5 percent of his free throws.

“Klay Thompson is going to work apparently,” Gonzaga junior guard Steven Gray said. “He’s getting a lot of good looks and making a lot of shots. A lot of that is going to fall on how well we contain him and how difficult we can make the shots he’s taking.”

Gray figures to be the one guarding Thompson, but the Cougar will probably see several different Zags and schemes before the night is over. Thompson was limited to four points on 2-of-9 shooting in GU’s 74-52 win last year in Pullman.

“They could put Gray on him, they could put (Matt) Bouldin on him or they could give him a bigger look, maybe try (Elias) Harris on him,” said WSU first-year coach Ken Bone, who guided Portland State to an upset win over Gonzaga in the Kennel last year. “They’ve been known to throw little wrinkles, maybe a box and one or something like that.

“We understand that Klay is our best scorer and our best shooter and so does everybody else. So we’re trying to prepare for what could happen in any game. But the way Gonzaga plays and their personnel, they’ll have no problem matching up with our personnel.”

The matchup, of course, goes beyond Thompson, who is “probably playing somewhat similar to Stephen Curry,” said GU coach Mark Few, referring to the ex-Davidson guard who torched the Bulldogs for 40 points in a 2008 NCAA Tournament win.

“They’re a very, very confident basketball team,” Few said, pointing out that WSU is strong defensively and on the boards. “What they did to San Diego was unbelievable. I don’t see us beating Billy’s team by 40 anytime soon.”

Bone is pleased by how quickly players are adjusting to his new system.

“Guys are buying into the philosophy we’re trying to teach and doing a nice job,” he said, “although we all know things get a lot tougher immediately.”

Thompson has been one of the primary beneficiaries.

“He’s just so much more aggressive,” Few said. “He can shoot it early in the clock, last year there was probably some apprehension. He’s just getting a lot more opportunities, whether it’s off screens or cuts or post-ups. It’s similar to how we treated Adam (Morrison) with the variety of opportunities he’s getting.”

Gonzaga features four players in double figures – Bouldin (18.2 points), Gray (16.4), Robert Sacre (14.4) and Harris (12.6). The 7-foot Sacre and 6-8 Harris will have a size advantage against WSU’s front line.

“Those big guys (are) a huge reason why they’re so good, because of their presence on both ends of the court, not just the offensive end,” Bone said. “They will present problems for us, just like they do for everybody else.”









"I would assume the tempo will be played at a quicker pace," GU coach Mark Few said. "They've certainly showed that and that's how we play. That'll probably be different than the last couple years."

--Bouldin and Few said they've been mildly surprised by how quickly GU has meshed in a 5-1 start.

"I thought we'd be good from the get-go," Bouldin said. "I knew they (newcomers) were going to be good and have great years. In terms of our toughness and way we've come together, it’s really surprised me. I thought our strength would be our chemistry and way we get along. The way they compete on the floor, it's surprising."

Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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