Watching the replay as I plunk away on my day-after Arizona post.
First impression: Gonzaga missed a major opportunity in the final 2:30 minutes of the first half, leading by 14. The Zags committed two turnovers and Allonzo Trier hit a pair of tough mid-range jumpers. In a half Gonzaga thoroughly controlled and probably should have led by 16, Arizona had closed within 10 and carried that momentum into the second half.
You know the drill: Here’s my game story, box score, John Blanchette’s column and Tyler Tjomsland’s photo gallery (great snap above of Sabonis blocking York's dunk attempt). Good stuff from Bruce Pascoe -- a guest on the Gonzaga Game Day Live pregame radio show John and I co-host two hours before every GU game -- here, here and here in the Arizona Daily Star.
In case you missed it, Gonzaga will be featured on an upcoming HBO series.
--We’ll start with an update on Zag big man Przemek Karnowski, who has missed the last two games with back issues. Here’s the rundown: Shem tweaked his back against Texas A&M in the Bahamas, nothing serious, received treatment, kept playing.
The problem occurred Tuesday in practice. Karnowski took a fall where he wasn’t able to land on his feet. He finished the practice but later that evening his back started to tighten up and he was in some pain.
An MRI revealed a disc was pressing against a nerve on the right side.
“That’s why my leg is hurting a lot,” said Karnowski, who is walking gingerly, a familiar sight to anyone who has dealt with a balky back. “I’m just taking some medicine, trying to get the swelling down.
Karnowski has been in touch with doctors, seen a chiropractor and had acupuncture treatment.
“I feel better for sure,” he said. “I just hope the pain is going to go away.”
Asked if Karnowski was close to playing, Few said, “No.”
Both teams were missing their starting center: Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski and GU’s Karnowski. The absence of Karnowski is evident at both ends. He’s an anchor defensively, one of the nation’s best rim protectors and he usually does it without fouling.
At the other end, he often draws double teams which lead to open shots for teammates, he’s an excellent passer and he gets his share of hockey assists (the pass before the pass that leads to a basket). He also puts considerable foul pressure on opponents, and most teams have a lack of quality interior depth. Gonzaga attempted just eight free throws vs. Arizona.
“Obviously we get way better rim protection (with Karnowski),” Few said. “He’s as good as there is at shoring up the paint and guarding all that stuff and protecting the rim, which we didn’t do a great job of the second half. He has a tendency to settle us down on offense, and gives us another weapon.”
--Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis were outstanding in the first half, with Wiltjer going off for 20 points and Sabonis powering for 12. But as their minutes piled up in the second half, their efficiency slipped, although both continued to produce virtually all of Gonzaga’s offense.
Wiltjer played 39 minutes, Sabonis 35. At one point, Wiltjer was 10 of 15 from the field. He finished 14 of 27 and misfired on a few close-range shots late that he rarely misses.
“We probably had Wiltj out there too many minutes. We had Domas out there, we were trying to sub him a lot, but we had foul trouble at the guard spot so we couldn’t really go small,” Few said. “We were in a little bit of a dilemma. Clearly I think Wiltj was fatigued, he missed some of those bunnies around there, same with Domas.”
-- The Zags played perhaps their best defense of the season in the first half. They shut down Ryan Anderson, limited Gabe York to four points and generally kept the ’Cats off the offensive glass. Arizona had three assists at half.
That changed in the second half as Arizona racked up 40 points, made 50 percent of its shots and continued to get to the FT line with more frequency than the Zags.
York barely touched the rim in burying four 3-pointers in the second half, which fueled Arizona’s comeback. He didn’t score in the last 12:45, but the damage was done as he shot the Wildcats into the game and his teammates, particularly Anderson and Trier took over from there. The Zags couldn’t keep Trier from penetrating the lane.
“We just didn’t finish the game out obviously,” Wiltjer said. “We turned the ball over, just didn’t get stops like we were in the first half.”
After Silas Melson was picked off in transition and York canned his fourth trey, GU countered with a zone defense. Anderson found a soft spot and dropped an 8-foot floater. On the next series -- it was hard to tell whether GU stayed in zone or went man -- Anderson made a nice move and scored over Wiltjer. The Zags then went man and Dusan Ristic beat Ryan Edwards on the offensive glass for an easy put-back.
“We let York get going, they got their heads up and we let ours down a little bit,” Few said.
STATS OF NOTE
--All five GU starters played at least 31 minutes. McClellan 31, Perkins 37, Dranginis 35, Sabonis 35, Wiltjer 39. Arizona had just two players log more than 27 minutes (York 35, Trier 35).
--After attempting 44 free throws against Washington, GU’s last four games have resulted in 41 total attempts. The Zags attempted 11 free throws against A&M, UConn and WSU; just eight against Arizona.
--Josh Perkins was the only guard to get to the FT line. He was 2 of 3.
--Arizona made just 9 of 19 on FTs.
--Sabonis and Wiltjer took 43 of GU’s 61 shots. Dranginis had one shot attempt in 35 minutes.
--Wiltjer was the lone Zag to make a 3. He was 3 of 7, the rest of the team 0 of 6.
Few on getting guard production: “It’s really important. They have to stay aggressive and hunt their shots. We definitely need more baskets out of them than we got today, although we wanted to focus on getting it inside. We have to do a better job of getting them to the FT line.”
Wiltjer on preventing opponents’ second-half comebacks: “Just continuing to defend and do the things we do well, and move the ball. For sure cutting down on turnovers.”
Dranginis on the defense: “Honestly the posts did a pretty good job defensively, the guards didn’t as well, including myself. So I’m pretty frustrated.”
McClellan: “It’s easy for someone to say the things that we did in the first half we have to do in the season half. But when the score is getting tight, 56-56, that’s not a time to take your foot off the pedal. It’s more of a reason to stay in attack mode and keep being aggressive.”
Perkins: “Just come out with the same mind-set that we do in the first half. Just be aggressive and not play to lose.”