Read on for more, and check back later for a preview of the Oklahoma State game on New Year's Eve.
--Let’s begin with Steven Gray. He had 4-5 shifts of playing 3-4 minutes, finishing with zero points, zero shots and three rebounds in 17 minutes. He’s obviously still recovering from back spasms. He passed up a couple of open 3-pointers and it didn’t look like he was able to get into a deep defensive stance and apply ball pressure the way he usually does.
“It was just kind of to get him going again,” coach Mark Few said of Gray’s return after an 11-day stretch between games. “He obviously didn’t play like we’re used to him playing, but I think it was good to get him out on the floor, get it under his belt and hopefully we can get some more out of him Friday.”
When Gray passed up an open 3 and made a bad entry pass midway through the second half, he went to the bench for good.
He rode a stationary bike in the tunnel near GU’s bench to loosen up during pre-game warm-ups and again when he subbed out during the first half. He said he practiced for the first time Tuesday, but he didn’t do much during Wednesday’s shoot-around.
“The biggest concern was defensively, if I could match-up, not for me personally, but I haven’t been in a game for a while,” Gray said. “I’ll get at least a day of practice now to try to get into the flow of things.”
Gray said his back “felt pretty good” during the game,” but he anticipated it would “probably stiffen up” Wednesday night.
--Demetri Goodson, Elias Harris and Robert Sacre were solid, and it was also a good night for a trio of Zags who will be key to GU’s fortunes this season: Kelly Olynyk, Mathis Mönninghoff and Marquise Carter. (You could probably add another name to that list: Manny Arop, who has been inconsistent most of the season).
Olynyk made 5 of 7 shots, 5 of 6 free throws and finished with 15 points, a career high. He would have had 16 points, but a 3-pointer in the first half was incorrectly ruled a 2. Mönninghoff had 12 points and six boards. Carter scored nine points and had five assists in 18 minutes.
Goodson pushed the ball at every opportunity. He made 4 of 8 shots, all runners or layups, and was 5 of 6 at the foul line, continuing his recent improvement at the stripe.
“They (coaches) just told me to be really aggressive and look to score,” Goodson said. “I just took that and took it to the court.”
--Gonzaga is making frequent trips to the free-throw line, a product of the number of fouls opponents accumulate defending Sacre and Harris inside. The Zags shot 28 free throws against Lafayette, the fifth time in six games with at least 20 attempts. They made 19 (67.9 percent).
Lafayettehad 24 fouls, with leading scorer Jared Mintz picking up two in the first 5 minutes. His backup, Jake Kreuser, had four fouls in 12 minutes. GU was in the bonus at the 12:15 mark of the first half.
“The post game is always there for us,” Sacre said. “We’re going to keep working on getting post touches. Guys are looking inside and that’s great. We’re looking outside, too, to make sure our shooters get their shots.”
Meanwhile, Lafayette’s first free throws came with 17:55 left in the second half. GU committed just four fouls in the first half.
“They’re patient and it’s crisp (execution), kind of like the old Princeton teams,” Few said of the Leopards’ offense. “They spread you out and they adjust to how you’re playing them. I thought our guys on short preparation did a nice job of defending all their action.”
Mintz had just four points in the first half, but he warmed up with eight in the second half. He made a pair of jump hooks, one from about 10 feet, one right-handed and one left-handed.
Guard Jim Mower made five first-half 3-pointers en route to 17 points. He didn’t score again until 4 minutes remained, draining a 3-pointer while being fouled. He finished with 21 points. Mower had 31 points against Rider, burying eight 3s along the way, earlier this season.
“He’s a knock-down shooter,” Goodson said. “If you give him any type of room, it’s a 3. Coaches told me to face guard him and not let him catch it.”
STATS OF NOTE
--Not only was Goodson’s 13 points a season high, it was his first game in double figures.
--Counting LCSC, Gray has scored five points combined in his last three games (note: he missed more than half of the Baylor, Lafayette games).
--Sacre’s streak of scoring in double figures ended at four. He had nine points.
--Harris’ scoring and rebounding averages are slowly rising. He’s had at least nine boards in three of the last four games. He’s scored 19, 19, 8, 13 and 14 points in GU’s last five outings. He’s now averaging 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. He was at 9.2 and 4.2 a month ago.
--Sacre blocked three shots, bringing his career total to 95. He’s one behind Josh Heytvelt for fifth on GU’s all-time list.
--Mönninghoff played the most minutes (28). Olynyk’s 19 led bench players.
--GU made 60.7 percent from the field in the first half.
--Twelve of Lafayette’s 20 field goals were 3-pointers.
--Points in paint: GU 40-12. Bench points: GU 35-16.
Sacre on defending the Leopards: “It’s a different style. I thought our guys managed it really well. We played our style.”
Harris on post-Christmas games: “We had three days off, we started practice on the 26th and it was a lot of running. Maybe our legs were a little tired, but it didn’t affect us too bad.”
Harris on Gray: “It was good to see him going a little bit so he can get used to it, so he can be ready on the 31st (Oklahoma State).”
Sacre: “One day at a time, just keep getting better.”