Time for my day-after Saint Martin’s post and I’m going to come clean: I don’t have a ton for you. The game wasn’t exactly riveting against a D-II opponent and when I got done with three post-game interviews the locker room was pretty much empty. Most of my post-game questions were Tennessee-related anyway!
--I recall a pre-season conversation with coach Mark Few about the guards and how playing time/starting assignments might play out. As mentioned a couple billion times in this space before, starting lineups aren’t Few’s favorite topic. He’s more concerned with who’s on the floor when games are on the line. But he acknowledged that he could envision starters/playing time changing often, depending on performance, matchups, needs, etc.
With the up-and-down guard play most of the season, in the last week we’ve seen Silas Melson make his first career start, Bryan Alberts make his first career start and Dustin Triano receive some first-half minutes in a tight game against Montana.
Last night it was Alberts’ turn. He had played 81 minutes in nine games prior to Monday’s game. He played a game-high 34 minutes against Saint Martin’s and delivered four 3-pointers, 14 points and no turnovers. GU’s perimeter shooting has been suspect this season as opponents dedicate their attention to forwards Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis and try to force the guards to beat them. (Few noted Triano had been shooting well in practice as one reason for the walk-on’s stint vs. Montana).
Alberts, by far, has the best 3-point percentage on the team (11 of 17, 64.7%) but he’s seen limited minutes. Keeping in mind his break-out game came against a D-II foe, it seems safe to assume he’ll start Saturday against Tennessee, which will serve as a better gauge if he can impact games against better competition.
“It was great to see him find spots where we could get him the ball,” Few said. “He can shot the ball. I think the fact he is shooting the ball like that will help our offense grow.”
--Every update on Przemek Karnowski seems to take on a more ominous tone. The big man is dealing with a bulging disc in his back. He’s missed five straight games. He hasn’t attended GU’s last two games because sitting on the bench would be very uncomfortable. He's two weeks removed from his hard fall in practice and he's not getting better.
“He’s not progressing well at all,” Few said. “It’s not looking good, certainly for a while, but we’re hoping he starts getting better and better.”
Karnowski had been experiencing pain in his leg due to the disc pressing against a nerve. Few said one bit of positive news is that his leg pain is gone. The pain is now centered in his back.
“He’s improving that way, but he has no mobility,” Few said.
Ryan Edwards saw extended minutes (18) and with the guards playing better last night the Zags went with a four-guard set for extended periods.
STATS OF NOTE
--Gonzaga made 9 of 20 3s (45%). Percentages for the previous four games: 33.3, 23.1, 26.7, 23.1.
--Wiltjer started the season 1 of 10 on 3s. He’s since made 21 of 48 (43.7%).
--The Zags still aren’t shooting a lot of free throws (11 of 14 last night), but they’re making more of late. They’ve had five straight games making at least 73 percent.
--Sabonis was 10 of 13 FG, boosting his season percentage to 64.4.
Few: “I thought by and large we handled our business and now we can bear down on some of these finals.”
Saint Martin’s center Fred Jorg: “Sabonis, great guy, great finisher around the rim, great skill set. Same with Kyle Wiltjer. Two guys I think we’re going to see in the future at a higher level. It was great to compete against those guys.”
Alberts on finals week: “I’ve got four coming up, starting (Tuesday). It’s not hard to balance it, once you get the hang of it.”