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Sunday, August 25, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Day after Western Michigan

Robert Sacre tied for GU’s team high with 15 points in win at the Arena on Saturday. (Associated Press)
Robert Sacre tied for GU’s team high with 15 points in win at the Arena on Saturday. (Associated Press)

There is nothing like sitting courtside for a game, as I did Saturday at the Arena when Gonzaga hiked its record to 4-0 with a 78-58 win over Western Michigan. Unlike home games at the McCarthey Athletic Center where the press table is maybe 20 rows from the court, at the Arena you hear coaches barking at officials and directing their teams. You hear players interacting. You get a true feel for the physicality of the game, and there was no shortage of that between GU and WMU.

I remember listening to John Calipari chew out future first-round draft pick Tyreke Evans when he got sloppy during an Arena game a couple years ago: “This isn’t an AAU game.” Calipari’s language was a bit more colorful.

Here's my game story and read on for my day-after Western Michigan post.

 

--The funniest exchange Saturday was WMU’s 6-foot-9, 290-pound center Matt Stainbrook shouting at Sam Dower to “SHOOT THAT” several times after Dower caught a pass near the free-throw line shortly after checking into the game. It’s been apparent since Dower set foot on campus that he doesn’t need much encouragement when it comes to taking a shot. He told me as much when I mentioned Stainbrook’s taunts to him outside the locker room.

However, Dower showed restraint, and declined on a fairly open 14-footer. His patience was rewarded. He passed the ball and eventually it came back to Dower, who buried an open 8-footer on the same possession.

“He doesn’t know how badly I wanted to shoot it,” a smiling Dower said, “but it was too early in the shot clock. We had to move the ball around.”

 Dower’s 15-point effort was similar to the last half of last season when he became a major part of GU’s offense. He made 7 of 12 shots and also snagged six rebounds. He swatted a shot and made a steal. Dower had only attempted 12 shots and scored just 10 points in GU’s first three games. As the third ‘big’, Dower’s playing time was limited to 15 minutes per game, in part because Robert Sacre and Elias Harris have been playing well. He logged 24 minutes Saturday.

“He played great in the scrimmage (versus Texas), then dropped off due to circumstances,” head coach Mark Few said. “Foul trouble, EWU was running around with five guards out there at times and spreading the floor, kind of things like that. We all knew he’d get going and it was good to see him bang in a couple shots there.”

Dower became the seventh Zag to score in double figures in a game this season. David Stockton, who had 10 points, became the sixth.

--Stockton was impressive in the first half, knocking down a pair of 3s, handing out four assists and making two steals. He fed Sacre for a key bucket at the end of the half that hiked Gonzaga’s lead to eight. Stockton started the second half in place of Kevin Pangos and immediately hit a mid-range jumper to reach double figures.

“He came in and made plays,” Few said. “When he’s making plays defensively and being effective on offense like he was … that’s what we need out of him and (for him) not to be a defensive liability.”

Stockton played a season-high 25 minutes. He was coming off a fine outing against Hawaii (6 points, 3 assists).

--Pangos seemed tentative early and had some trouble operating against WMU’s aggressive, extended pressure. When Gonzaga entered the front court, WMU coaches yelled instructions to Broncos players, describing what was coming next. Often, those centered on where Pangos was headed after making a pass.

“He’s coming back out (front),” an assistant hollered several times, and sure enough Pangos headed back out front after making a cut. He had two turnovers and zero points in nine first-half minutes.

Pangos, though, was in better form in the second half. He scored seven points and had two assists and a steal without making a turnover in 15 minutes.

--Gonzaga was outrebounded for the second straight game. WMU won the glass 36-30, 13-10 on the offensive boards.

“They’re very solid, scrappy, tough,” GU forward Mike Hart said. “They were tough on the glass. They kind of ‘beasted’ us.”

Hart did his part, grabbing seven rebounds in 24 minutes.

--Sacre matched his season-low for points but probably had his best offensive day. He made jump hooks with each hand, buried a couple of turnarounds from 8-10 feet. He came in averaging 17.7 points, but 35 of his points had come at the free-throw line and just 18 points had come on field goals.

He turned that around by making 7 of 13 shots and only 1 of 3 free throws.

--I mentioned on Twitter yesterday that it was probably the quietest pre-game buildup to tipoff for a Zags ‘home’ game as I’ve witnessed in five years. The loudest ovations came in the second half when GU put together 5-0 and 8-0 runs to take command.

Hart put a positive spin on the crowd: “It was so great. We had more people here than we would have at the Kennel. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the loudest, but you know everyone wants you to win and they’re supporting you.”

STATS OF NOTE

--The allocation of minutes looked more like a scrimmage than what you’d see in a reasonably close game. Gonzaga had the game under control for the last 10 minutes. Nobody played more than 26 minutes (Sacre). Seven Zags had between 20-26 minutes and Elias Harris played 17 minutes.

--Gonzaga’s bench has outscored opponents in three of four games. It was 31-19 Saturday.

--The Zags were 12 of 21 at the FT line. GU has run hot or cold at the stripe. The Bulldogs were 18 of 28 vs. Hawaii (64.3 percent) and 57.1 percent vs. WMU after making 70.6 percent vs. EWU and 81 percent vs. WSU.

--Hart’s six points matched his career high (set vs. EWU earlier this season).

QUOTEBOOK

Tweet ex-Zag Matt Bouldin: “cant explain how much I love mike hart starting.”

Few: “I like how we defended. We held them right around 40 percent, kept their numbers down. They run a lot of interesting stuff and we defended it all pretty good.”

Dower on Stockton: “He’s good pushing the ball up court and he finds the bigs when we’re ducking in. He has good court vision.”

Dower on high-low post connections with Sacre: “He knows I’ll catch it and if I’m on top I know he’ll catch it.”

Hart on his role: “I’ll do whatever I can do to help this team win.”




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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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