Sun., Dec. 6, 2009
Day after Wake Forest
Good Sunday morning. Had my morning scrap with the computer (explorer can't connect to this web site), but I can finally post the day-after offering from Wake Forest's 77-75 win over Gonzaga.
Lots more on Elias Harris, Kong, etc. below, but first the links. Here's my game story, John Blanchette was spot-on with Harris' ejection in his column, the A.P. gamer, the Winston Salem-Journal article, and S-R game photos.
--To recap what everyone probably knows by now, freshmen forward Elias Harris was ejected late in the first half for a forearm to the neck of Wake Forest’s Chas McFarland, almost simultaneously as Matt Bouldin was whistled for a foul on C.J. Harris’ 3-point attempt. GU’s Harris turned to block out McFarland, meeting the center with an arm bar that floored the 7-footer.
The officials huddled, watched the replays and ruled it a flagrant technical.
By now, Gonzaga coach Mark Few has probably watched the replay a dozens times. After the game, Few said, “I haven’t seen it. Elias is an incredibly nice kid. If it was, I’m sure he didn’t mean it in any malicious way. That’s just not his style. They (officials) said it was obvious he needed to be ejected, so I’ll take their word for it.”
The ejection doesn’t carry additional punishment, so Harris will play against Augustana.
My wife rarely asks me job-related questions about games I cover, but she had one for me upon my arrival at home: “So, did he do it?” Well, yes, Harris did get his forearm up too high, I told her. It wasn’t intentional, but the ejection was warranted.
Harris is a relentless rebounder. As a 20-year-old freshman, he’s been composed on the court thus far. I don’t expect either to change.
He’s also been prone to big second halves. He had 8 points and 10 rebounds vs.
McFarland said his throat was a little sore, but he was otherwise fine.
--Rebounding. It’s a word the Bulldogs can expect to hear a billion times the next few days at practice.
Gonzaga has been outrebounded in its last two games, particularly in the first half when WSU had 12 offensive boards and Wake piled up 11. GU rallied in both games to narrow the gap, but the opponents’ extra possessions created a combined 30-15 disadvantage in second-chance points.
“They beat us to a lot of balls,” Few said. “They ended up with 16 offensive rebounds. That’s way too many. We talked about it all week. We didn’t do a good job of knocking them back and they were just quicker to the ball. Eventually that was what got them extra possessions down the stretch.”
Few said Wake Forest is a "phenomenal" offensive rebounding team.
Said Harris: “We need to fix that right from the beginning of the game, be aggressive and box out. It’s something to work on in practice.”
--Gonzaga’s bench delivered a solid performance. It seems to rotate from game to game who will contribute, but Saturday was Bol Kong’s and Manny Arop’s turn. Kong entered with about 12 minutes left in the second half and dropped in four 3-pointers, including a pretty pump-fake that sent the defender airborne. He dribbled once and drained a 21-footer that narrowed the deficit to 72-71.
Against WSU, Kelly Olynyk and Grant Gibbs came up big. Kong had a big 3 and five points against
“We got some great contributions from Manny and Bol,” Few said. “Kelly battled really hard. I think it’s going to be like that all year. You go to the bench and hope they can give you a little lift and for the most part, we’ve been able to get a lift from somebody every night.”
Kong has seen limited playing time, in part because of an ankle injury and his late arrival on campus (two weeks into the semester). Plus he sat out last season. He’s still learning GU’s system and another factor in his playing time has been the extensive minutes logged by Bouldin and Gray at the wings, leaving little time for others. So Kong has been playing some ‘4’.
“I had a lot of confidence,” he said. “Every time you touch the ball and put it up, the crowd is behind you. It felt good.”
Kong said his ankle is healthy. Asked about his role as an offensive spark off the bench, he said, “I guess it is at the moment.” Obviously he hopes to see more and more playing time.
Arop was outstanding, finishing with nine points, nine boards and four assists. He hit a couple of spot-up jumpers and scored a layup on a nice cut from the top of the lane.
Will Foster saw two shifts of playing time in the first half, perhaps to counter Wake’s tall front line, but didn’t play in the second half. Reserve forward Andy Poling hasn’t played in five games.
--For the second straight game, Gonzaga went long stretches without center Rob Sacre and point guards Demetri Goodson or G.J. Vilarino on the floor. This time it was Kong and Arop on the court (it was generally Olynyk and Gibbs vs. WSU), with Bouldin and Gray basically handling point guard duties. Goodson scored eight points in 25 minutes while Vilarino played just three minutes.
Goodson was called for a technical foul for slamming the ball on the court after a fall was called on a teammate with 15 minutes left in the second half. Kong subbed in for Goodson about three minutes later. Goodson returned for a brief stint in the closing seconds.
Bouldin finished with five assists, four in the first half. He essentially spoon-fed teammates open looks and Goodson had a nifty no-look assist to Sacre for a dunk. Gonzaga’s passing was much sharper than Wednesday’s 19-turnover performance.
--There’s been some discussion about Gonzaga’s youth finally cropping up, which is probably true to some degree. But largely inexperienced players (Arop, Kong, Olynyk) also played key roles in GU building a 13-point first-half lead and in the team’s second-half comeback from 14 down.
“Maybe a little bit, but our youth really stepped up,” Bouldin said. “They may have struggled in certain situations, but they compete every night and that’s all we can ask from them.”
GU’s zone forced Wake to fire from the perimeter and the shots didn’t fall. Eventually, the Demon Deacons heated up from distance, led by Ari Stewart’s 4 of 4 3-point shooting.
Wake went with three bigs at times and Bouldin or Gray found themselves guarding a 6-11 opponent on occasion.
--I didn’t leave the MAC last night until about 9 or so. With the afternoon start, I took advantage of the extra time for longer interviews, I took way too much time to write the gamer and I got caught up in the ending of the Texas-Nebraska game, etc. and highlights of the final seconds of the Fresno State-Illinois game).
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not unusual to see a Zag or two in the arena practicing when I’m leaving. Saturday it was Kelly Olynyk shooting free throws (he was 2 of 5 in the game). I joked that he needed one of those rebounding machines. He said they have one, but he was fine just fetching his shots.
After the IPFW game, it was Andy Poling taking extra practice from the free-throw line.
Arop: “We’re a young team, but that’s not an excuse. We have to be able to hold leads and not put ourselves in such a difficult situation all the time.”
Few: “Give Wake a lot of credit. They shot the ball really well, showed a lot of poise. That’s the best I’ve seen them shot it. When they do that, they’re a handful because they have so much size inside, they can really stretch you out.”
Harris; “I feel bad because I know I can help my team. We still had our heads up. They kept focused and hustled, especially Bol (Kong) when he came from bench and had a nice game. Everybody tried their best but it wasn’t enough.”
Bouldin: “I don’t know if it was so much just Elias going out, but it was the overall swing. It hurt us, but I think it was more so the fact that it went from an 11-point lead to 2 in a matter of a minute and a half. It was bizarre, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Few on Kong: “For him to come in off the bench cold like that, that’s what Bol can do as he gets more and more comfortable. That was a big, big bright spot for us as we move forward. Now we can plug him in spots when we’re struggling scoring or guys are playing off people. It gives us another weapon and will really open up the floor.”