Read on for more from GU’s 99-73 thrashing of Pepperdine on Monday night.
--Domantas Sabonis jump hook. Sabonis put-back. Sabonis 3-pointer. Sabonis dunk. Sabonis fallaway. Sabonis kick-out pass. Sabonis crossover (our personal favorite, even though he missed the shot).
“I thought Sabonis did some things that he hasn't been doing,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said. “He’s shooting a couple of step-back jump shots and if I’m not mistaken he shot a 3. That’s the contagious part. When he’s shooting them and hitting them, you know, they’re feeling pretty good about it.”
The sophomore forward has been playing well since a 26-point outburst against NAU in GU’s delayed season opener. But lately, Sabonis has been on an absolute roll and showing off more of his expanded offensive arsenal. In the last six games, Sabonis is averaging 22 points and 11.7 rebounds. Pepperdine and Tennessee didn’t have the size to handle Sabonis inside, but Arizona, UCLA and even Montana did and he still produced strong numbers.
The crossover, from a 6-11 forward? The fadeaway? The trademark Sabonis sweeping drive across the lane to set up the jump hook, only to stop after a dribble or two and hit an open 6-footer? Picture scouts scribbling down notes.
“He’s a beast, love watching him,” point guard Josh Perkins said. “When he’s in the zone we have to find him because it’s going in most of the time.”
Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer are the centerpiece of every opponent’s scouting report. Teams are doubling, sagging, zoning to keep GU’s two standout bigs in check and force others to score. On one play last night, all five defenders took a swipe at Sabonis on the low block. He had six assists (he had 9 in 11 games coming in) and Wiltjer added three.
“That (16 3-pointers) is a testament to our bigs,” guard Eric McClellan said. “Those guys are going to get double-teamed every night, Wiltj got box-and-oned tonight. He didn’t take crazy shots, he just kicked it out. We got everybody involved, guys stepped up and shot confidently. Sixteen 3s, that’s a beautiful thing.”
--This hasn’t been an easy stretch for the Zags. They’re coming off finals week, a quick trip to Seattle to face an athletic Tennessee team, a one-day prep for upstart Pepperdine and now another one-day prep for Loyola Marymount before the holiday break.
“After Tennessee, I was beat down," McClellan said. "My body hasn’t felt like that in a while but I take pretty good care of my body. Guys are probably tired but we’ll never use that as an excuse. When we step on that court, this is what we love to do.”
Said Wiltjer: “It’s not too bad. Our coaching staff does a great job of emphasizing rest and recovery. We were back from Seattle quickly. We have such great trainers. It’s not as bad as from the outside perspective.”
--Gonzaga has been taking care of the ball of late. The Zags had just seven turnovers last night, following six vs. Tennessee and nine vs. Saint Martin’s.
Perkins has gone two straight games without a turnover. He has just four TOs in the last four games (110 minutes).
“It makes us a more deadly team,” Wiltjer said.
STATS OF NOTE
--Wiltjer and Sabonis combined for 60 points against Tennessee. They had 32 last night. Guards/wings scored 61 points (Ryan Edwards added 6).
--Wiltjer is averaging 19.7 points and 7.9 rebounds. Sabonis is at 17.8 and 10.6.
--McClellan has reached double figures in four of the last games, bumping his average to 9.2 points, same as Perkins.
--Wiltjer is 46 of 50 at the FT line (92%). Sabonis is 40 of 48 (83.3%).
--GU’s assist leader? That would be Dranginis with 41 (vs. 12 turnovers and a team-best 3.42 assist-to-turnover ratio). Perkins has 39 assists, 32 turnovers.
Few: “Obviously they were playing off the guards and covering down on our bigs, like everybody has been doing. Our guys took better shots. In the past we’ve taken hurried, rushed or tough ones. I think we slowed down and made easy plays.”
Few: “With the snow, I barely made it down here from my house. It was stacking up pretty thick.”
Perkins: “We have some losses on our record but it doesn’t mean anything. We’re still a really good team and look out WCC.”