My day-after post is below.
(Reminder: All-Conference teams will be announced in the noon hour).
--Steven Gray’s Senior Night dominated the post-game, but head coach Mark Few was quick to remind that Monday was just Gray’s final home game.
“We’re not saying goodbye, this was more for the home fans,” Few said. “Hopefully we have a lot more games with him, a lot more time with him.”
Gray, as one would expect, took everything in stride: a brief pre-game ceremony, a brief post-game speech, etc. He thanked his teammates, his coaches, the community and the students. His dad got an early start and drove over Snoqualmie Pass before it was closed later in the day. Gray’s sister Brittany had to attend class (her coach gave her the day off from practice), but by the time Gray’s mom and sister reached the summit it was closed. Gray said both are planning on attending the team banquet after the season.
“He never changes, that’s just how he is,” Elias Harris said of his teammate. “It’s been great to have him on my team for two years. We want to try to take it as far as we can for him.”
--Gray’s play on the court was much like it’s been over the last eight games. He’s in a prolonged shooting slump. He missed his first four 3s before hitting one. He was 2 of 4 from distance in the second half. Gray finished 3 of 12 for 9 points.
He’s been in double figures just twice in the last six games. He hasn’t made 50 percent of his shots in any of the last eight games (23 of 93, 24.7 percent). On 3s, he’s 12 of 45, 26.7 percent.
Gray continues to contribute in other ways. He had four assists in the first half, and would have had a couple more but his passes led to free throws, not field goals. Gray played 25 minutes without a turnover.
--Few likes having a game to bridge the gap between Gonzaga’s last WCC game and its first WCC Tournament game (that’s been in the semifinals the last eight years, two days after the tourney starts). Otherwise, Gonzaga would go eight days between games.
“It was nice to have a night like this,” Few said. “There are a lot of reasons for doing this. It opens up some space in the pre-season schedule and it gets us a game here. It’s kind of a long week if we don’t do something.”
The Bulldogs can also pick their Senior Night opponent and the last two years it’s been Cal State Bakersfield. That can lessen the stress on the players instead of the game falling on a key WCC matchup. Senior Nights can be like homecoming football games for players. Coaches worry about the added emotion, distractions and hoopla surrounding the event and seniors sometimes struggle in their last home game. San Diego’s two senior guards had miserable nights last week against Gonzaga on Senior Night.
--Twelve Zags played and 11 scored. Everyone played double-digit minutes except Mathis Keita (7) and Mike Hart (9). Mathis Mönninghoff hit four 3s and scored 12 points. Manny Arop had eight points and Keita added four points and four rebounds. His banked 3-pointer late drew one of the loudest ovations of the night because it gave fans a free hamburger.
“They’ve been going at it hard, but we’ve found a rotation that’s really working for us,” Few said. “It was nice because they’ve hung in there and kept competing and stayed ready.”
--Robert Sacre, from Vancouver, B.C., and Cal State Bakersfield guard Alex Johnson, from Toronto, crossed paths during their prep careers in Canada, but they didn’t stay in touch. That changed Monday, just before tip off.
“We played against each other when we were like 15 at a huge tournament,” Sacre said. “I didn’t know where he went and it was like, ‘You’re there?’ Funny how the basketball world is so small. His name sounded familiar, but I really didn’t get it. On film, you can’t see who is who. It was like five minutes before the game and it was, ‘Wait, I know you.’ ”
Johnson went 0 of 7 with five turnovers. Johnson, a junior, didn’t play in last year’s game, won by GU 78-59.
STATS OF NOTE
--Sacre and Dower split time in the first half at the ‘5’. They combined for 20 points in 20 minutes. They combined for 12 points in a combined 16 minutes in the second half for a total of 32 points in 36 minutes.
--Dower had 20 blocks on the season before swatting five last night. “Five, wow,” he said. “I thought I had like two.”
--Gonzaga’s non-conference and conference stats are nearly identical. For the season, GU shot 48.1 percent, held opponents to 39.6 percent and had a scoring margin of plus-11.8. In WCC play, GU shot 48.8 percent, held foes to 39.6 and had a plus-11.5 scoring margin.
--Mönninghoff made 46.5 percent from 3-point range during the regular season.
--Marquise Carter made 59 percent from the field, 48 percent of his 3s and 88 percent of his free throws in WCC games. He had 32 assists and 15 turnovers (just over 1 per game).
Few on Gray: “He’s been unbelievable. He’ll go down right in that group of great guards that have been through here. He’s just a tremendous person, unbelievable in school, unbelievable in the community. The kid’s a warrior. You never question effort or toughness with Steven.”
Few on GU’s 11th straight WCC crown: “It’s been a long haul. That wasn’t unexpected I think by our staff. From where we were five to six weeks ago to where we are now tells you the resiliency and the courage and the character of the group in there. Those league championships are precious and we take a lot of pride in them and that’s one of our main goals up on the wall to start every year is that, get into the NCAA Tournament and advance there so mission accomplished.”