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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grier, Toreros take on GU

Bill Grier spent 16 years as a Gonzaga assistant coach and he helped recruit many of the current Gonzaga Bulldogs before moving on to San Diego two years ago. In his first trip back last year, USD fell behind 15-0 en route to losing 80-70 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Grier is back for round two Saturday, but this time he's not battling his emotions or fielding endless questions about his return to Spokane.

More below in my unedited GU-USD advance.


By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

There’s a different feel to Bill Grier’s second trip to Spokane.

The San Diego men’s basketball coach, who spent 16 years as a Gonzaga assistant coach, already experienced an emotional homecoming a year ago. This time, when the Toreros and Bulldogs collide today at 3 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, Grier will be happy to see a number of old friends and familiar faces, but it will have more of a business-as-usual sense.

“Last year it was really emotional,” Grier said. “I had all kinds of emotions coming back and it just felt weird. Now it’s totally different.”

What hasn’t changed is that the Toreros, and everyone else in the West Coast Conference, are still chasing Gonzaga. The 20th-ranked Bulldogs (15-4, 6-0), eight-time defending regular-season champions, are alone in first after defeating No. 22 Saint Mary’s 69-62 on Thursday. Saint Mary’s and Portland, which thumped San Diego 69-55 Thursday, are a game back. The Toreros are two games behind and probably need an upset victory today to stay in the title chase at the halfway point.

“Saint Mary’s was a good win for us, it was important, but (San Diego) is even more important because it would solidify us as the top team in the WCC,” Bulldogs forward Austin Daye said.

San Diego (12-9, 4-2) has remained in the upper echelon of the WCC despite losing guard Brandon Johnson to a season-ending ruptured Achilles’ tendon Dec. 6. In addition, point guard Trumaine Johnson was suspended for the first 12 games for violating team rules and guard De’Jon Jackson was sidelined for seven games with a knee injury.

“It’s been a struggle, probably offensively more than anything,” Grier said of playing without Brandon Johnson, who was named MVP of the 2008 conference tournament after USD knocked off Gonzaga. “We’ve had some dry spells at the offensive end, but the thing that has kept us in games and helped us win games is the way we’ve been defending – until the last two games.”

The Toreros were handled by Saint Mary’s 65-42 and Portland’s 69 points were the fourth-highest against USD this season. Prior to those games, San Diego had won eight of nine.

“We’ll go from a track meet (against Saint Mary’s) to a possession-by-possession game,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, whose team is riding a seven-game winning streak. “They’re comfortable playing in the 50s, sometimes even the 40s, and they’ve done a nice job winning those games. We have to prepare ourselves to have quality possessions, play defense like we did in the second half (Thursday) and rebound the ball a little bit better.”

Forward Gyno Pomare (14.5 points, 6.9 rebounds), Trumaine Johnson (12.9 points) and forward Rob Jones (10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds) are San Diego’s primary scoring threats.

Sophomore guard Matt Dorr, a Mt. Spokane High product who played on Community Colleges of Spokane’s 30-2 team last year, has started every game and leads the Toreros in minutes played. He’s averaging 6.2 points and has made 40.3 percent of his 3-pointers. Dorr played at CCS for Mike Burns, the former head coach at Eastern Washington who is in his first season with the Toreros.


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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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