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Day after Pepperdine

Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin scored a career-high 32 points against Pepperdine. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin scored a career-high 32 points against Pepperdine. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As coaches say frequently, there is no such thing as a bad win. Along those lines, some wins aren't as fulfilling as others and Gonzaga’s 91-84 victory over Pepperdine on Thursday probably falls in that category.

First, the links: S-R gamer, John Blanchette column, S-R photos and A.P. Here’s an Oregonian article on Portland’s easy win over Loyola Marymount, which visits Gonzaga on Saturday. The Pilots were without Nik Raivio (strained Achilles') and LMU was missing Jarred DuBois (dehydration) and Drew Viney was ineffective in his first game back from a leg injury. Find recaps of San Diego's loss to Saint Mary's here and here.

Read on for more in my day-after post.

--Gonzaga made a good first impression, darting out to a 17-4 lead barely seven minutes in. From there, though Pepperdine, after making 2 of its first 14 shots, started connecting. Gonzaga’s lead fluctuated between 6 and 15 the rest of the way. Neither team could go on a prolonged run because neither could make enough defensive stops.

In the final 31 minutes, the Waves scored 78 points and made 26 of 49 shots. Keion Bell scored all 37 of his points in the final 23 minutes. Gonzaga essentially matched the Waves at the offensive end, shooting 56.3 percent in the second half and 53.2 percent overall.

“Once again we just kind of had to hang on and outscore them,” head coach Mark Few said, “which isn’t how we’d like to play and it isn’t going to win us a championship. You have to give Pepperdine a lot of credit. They got down early and didn’t quit. They kept coming at us and kept coming at us. Keion Bell torched us. He really put it on us.”

--Because of Gonzaga’s defensive lapses, coaches and players were less than enamored with the team’s performance.

Asked what he told the team afterward, Few said succinctly: “A lot of things.”

Asked if the coaches were happy, Matt Bouldin, who scored a career-high 32 points, said: “Heck no. That was one of the more fired-up times I’ve seen coach Few. My high school coach used to get on us after wins and (was) softer after the losses. But we deserved it. I expect tomorrow’s practice won’t be a regular pre-game practice.”

Said Few: “A lot of teams come in here and test it and see what it’s like and if you give them any kind of confidence … look across Division I basketball everybody is capable. There are so many good players out there, you saw that tonight. Whether it’s us coming home and everybody patting these guys on the back and telling them how great they are and looking at the rankings or if they want to listen to their coaches, today I think they listened to everybody else.”

--Center Rob Sacre continues to struggle at the offensive end. He went scoreless in 21 minutes, going 0 of 3 from the field. He didn’t see the ball too often in the lane. GU’s only points from the ‘5’ position came from Will Foster (two points) and Kelly Olynyk (four) -- and I don’t recall exactly if Olynyk was playing 4 or 5 when he scored.

“We kind of neutralized him a little bit,” Pepperdine coach Tom Asbury said. “We had a couple other things planned (for defending him) we didn’t even really have to go to. He’s a force, he’s a good player, but we did a really good job on him.”

After opening the season with six consecutive games in double figures, Sacre has reached double digits just three times in the last dozen games. In four WCC games, Sacre has scored just 18 points. He is tied for GU’s sixth leading scorer in conference with backup forward Bol Kong.

--Gonzaga made several key plays in the last few minutes to keep this one from becoming a white-knuckle finish. Elias Harris made a difficult bank shot to give GU a nine-point lead with 4:10 remaining. After Demetri Goodson missed a pair of free throws with 2:31 left, Harris tipped the rebound to himself and scored. Lastly, before wrapping up the game at the free-throw line in the final minute, Steven Gray snuck loose for a layup on a deflected pass from Manny Arop with 1:20 remaining.

Arop had five rebounds, three points and two assists in 11 minutes.

--Bouldin said his right hand, which was bothering him after a fall in the second half against San Diego, “hurts pretty good, but I’ll play through it.” He scored a career-high 32 points, made 3 of 5 3-pointers and didn’t seem to have any ball-handling issues. He had just one turnover in 37 minutes. Bouldin had a small ring of tape just below the knuckles on his fingers.

“I don’t think (there’s anything broken) and the swelling is going down, which means it’s getting better,” he said.

--Near the end of my game story, I wrote that Gonzaga again struggled at the free-throw line. The reality is GU’s 66.7-percent effort was actually a tad higher than its 66.5-percent season-long average. In 18 games, the Zags have made 70 percent or above just seven times.

There’s a missed opportunity for points as GU has attempted 510 free throws to their opponents’ 347.

--Chatted briefly with freshman guard Grant Gibbs, was working on moves and shooting at the MAC when I left the building at 11 p.m. Gibbs was sick during GU’s road trip last week and he said he lost about eight pounds. He’s feeling better and was working up a sweat at the MAC.


Bouldin on the approach for Saturday’s game with LMU: “Just play a lot harder than we did tonight (vs. Pepperdine). We have to be motivated and feed off the crowd a lot better than we did. There were stretches where we didn’t have any enthusiasm or fire.”

Gray on GU’s offensive execution: “We’re starting to figure this offense out, moving without the ball, getting the ball changing sides and finding guys in positions they can be successful, whether it’s Elias on the step-out or Matt off ball screens or me floating around the basket or popping up in random areas.”

Few on Harris, Gray and Bouldin (who combined for 72 of GU’s 91 points): “They just kind of took what was coming to them, and we needed every one of those points to hold these guys off.”

Pepperdine coach Tom Asbury on Keion Bell: “He kind of took over the game in the second half. He can do that from time to time. He's acrobatic and can score the ball.”

Bell on his 34-point second half: “The holes were the same, but the coaches are always telling me about balance. In the first half, I was going into the lane off one foot, (shooting) fadeaways. In the second half I tried to pick my spots and then once I got into the lane I’d jump stop off two feet so I had a lot more balance and it was a lot easier for me to finish plays.”

Few on Harris’ hard-earned 20 points: “He just kind of manufactured some ways to get himself some baskets.”

Harris, who was icing his back afterward: “It’s doing OK. I just need to take care of it. I’m good.”

Sacre on an uncomfortable second half: “It was a different game. I think Steven, Matt and Elias played really well and the guys came off the bench and contributed as best they can. It was one of those things where Keion went off in the second half, putting up shots we knew he’d put up and he somehow squeezed them in.”

Bouldin on returning to the MAC for the first time since Dec. 28: “I don’t think we put out something they (the fans) want to see every night, but it was good to be back.”

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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