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Day after Santa Clara

Associated Press Gonzaga’s Steven Gray drives to the basket in first-half action. (Associated Press)
Associated Press Gonzaga’s Steven Gray drives to the basket in first-half action. (Associated Press)

OK, back with a short notebook that will run in Saturday's S-R. And at the bottom more items to complete my day-after Santa Clara post. The links: S-R gamer early edition and late edition, San Francisco and Contra Costa Times. Find recaps of the four WCC games Thursday here.

Read on.



By Jim Meehan

SAN FRANCISCO – The ‘Big Three’ could use some company.

Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Elias Harris have been the cornerstones of Gonzaga’s offense most of the season, but they’re carrying a heavier burden through six West Coast Conference games. All three have raised their scoring averages in Gonzaga’s 6-0 conference start. They’re responsible for 69.1 percent of GU’s WCC points compared to 53.1 percent in 14 non-conference games.

In Thursday’s comeback victory over Santa Clara, the trio scored 29 of the Bulldogs’ 33 first-half points. They finished with 54 of 71 (76.1 percent). They’re the team’s most effective and versatile scorers so naturally the offense runs through them and caters to their strengths. And Gonzaga isn’t struggling to score, averaging nearly 81 points in conference play.

Still, there’s room for others to contribute. The next opportunity comes tonight when Gonzaga faces San Francisco at 6:30 at War Memorial Gym.

“It kind of has been (those three),” head coach Mark Few said. “Rob (Sacre) has to get going here. We’re trying to get him some touches. We need to stick with him and I think he’ll break out pretty soon. We’ve been looking. We tried Bol (Kong), we tried ‘Meech’ (Demetri Goodson), Manny (Arop), and (Thursday) it was Manny.”

It was Grant Gibbs chipping in eight points and six rebounds against Loyola Marmount last Saturday. All of Olynyk’s six points and three rebounds came in the second half of Thursday’s win. He also had seven points against LMU.

Arop was effective at both ends of the court against Santa Clara. He scored four points, grabbed a pair of rebounds, blocked two shots and had two steals in 15 second-half minutes. His tip-in gave Gonzaga the lead for good, 65-64, with 4 minutes left.

Sacre, who delivered a key jump hook in the closing minutes, has yet to reach double figures in a WCC game after averaging 12.3 in the non conference. Goodson’s non-conference scoring average of 6.9 has dropped to 5.2 in the WCC. Kong has scored three points or less in five of six conference games.

First-half blues

Gonzaga had 12 turnovers in the first half against the aggressive Broncos. The Bulldogs were better in the second half, finishing the game with 17 turnovers while making 48.1 percent of their shots.

“I need to quit talking about stuff like that the prior week,” Few said. “I told the guys we’re shooting 50 percent, eighth best in the country and the only thing that stops us is when we get careless with the ball. So we promptly went out and turned it over 12 times. Part of it was silly, not making easy plays, and the other part was just not being tough. We were kind of panicking against double teams. We were getting shoved around and they were just physically taking the ball from us.”


--Just before tip-off a moment of silence was observed for Dan Fitzgerald, the former Gonzaga basketball coach who died last week. Fitz played baseball at Santa Clara and had two stints as a Broncos assistant basketball coach.

--Saw Matt Bouldin in the hotel lobby this morning and asked him how he was doing. “Sore,” came his reply.

Bouldin took everything but a standing eight count on Thursday night. He was knocked off his feet on a breakaway late in the first half. He eventually made both free throws. A few minutes later, he was popped in the mouth.

“I feel like I’ve never got hit that many times in my life,” he said.

Bouldin played 40 minutes for the third time in six WCC games.

--Steven Gray got poked in the right eye and was temporarily seeing double.

“It was weird,” he said. “I tried to squint, (but) I was seeing two baskets. That’s first time that’s happened. Jen (Nyland, GU trainer) said we’ll rinse it out and give it a little time and it should get back to normal.”

One minute of game time later, Gray was back on the floor. A minute after that, he drained a 3-pointer as GU closed within 64-63.

--As mentioned in one of the two game stories I filed (the one filed just after the final buzzer and not the one about an hour later), strange is the norm for Gonzaga when it plays at the Leavey Center. Zag fans will recall Brody Angley’s inexplicable foul on Gray with 0.3 seconds left two years ago. Last year, Santa Clara was tagged with a technical foul when someone in the crowd tossed a bottle onto the court.

Thursday’s game had its share of odd occurrences, from Gray’s double vision to Gonzaga’s rally from a 14-point second-half deficit. GU outscored the Broncos 18-3 in the last 9 minutes and 12-0 in the final 5-plus minutes.

“They come out and play hard,” Bouldin said of SCU in the Leavey Center. “They’re a good team at home and they get up for this game every year. They want it just as bad as we do. They’ll come out and just smack you in the face. They’re really physical, really confident. That’s what we have to expect (from the opposition) every game.”

--Stats of note: Elias Harris had 14 rebounds; nobody else had more than 3. Gonzaga won the glass, 32-26. Bouldin had 19 points, six assists and four steals. GU made 18 of 24 free throws (75 percent). Santa Clara made 7 of 14 3s (50 percent). Both teams had shaky assists-to-turnover ratios: GU 13-to-17; SCU 12-to-16. Gonzaga outscored SCU 40-16 in the paint.


Bouldin on what he was thinking in the final five minutes: “Really just make the right play. We were thinking about getting stops and scoring, close that gap and keep the lead when we had it. I was just thinking win.”

Few on what he expects at San Francisco: “We’ve got to be prepared for another game like this (Thursday). We talked about it all week, I just don’t think we quite understood the approach Santa Clara that came at us. They came out and punched us in the face, figuratively, and we didn’t react very well. They were way more aggressive than us at both ends of the floor.”

Gray on the defensive turnaround in the second half: “We really focused on getting stops because we were in the bonus on offense. If we just continued attacking the basket, we’ll be fine there. It was a matter of not allowing them to score, making it tough and hitting the boards hard.”

Gray on GU’s first-half turnovers: “The coaches warned us what it was going to be like. A few of the guys who have played in these types of games here understand Santa Clara is going to come at you, the fans are going to come at you. All those things kind of turned into shellshock and one turnover turned into another turnover and another.”

Few on crazy games at the Leavey Center: “Yeah, but it was more about them being way more physical and aggressive. We’re not very good if we get shoved around and play passive and let guys take the ball from us and knock the ball away from us and shove us out of our offensive position. And that’s pretty much how we played for 30 minutes.”

Few on Harris, who tweaked his ankle: “I’m sure he’ll be sore (Friday), but the fact that he got back in and played on it, that helps.”



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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