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Day after Saint Mary’s

Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer, background, and Przemek Karnowski block a shot by Saint Mary’s guard Aaron Bright on Thursday. (Colin Mulvany)
Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer, background, and Przemek Karnowski block a shot by Saint Mary’s guard Aaron Bright on Thursday. (Colin Mulvany)

You know the drill: my game story, John Blanchette’s column and Colin Mulvany’s photos.

More from AP, and the San Jose Mercury-News.

Onward for my day-after Saint Mary’s post.



--Eric McClellan made his Gonzaga debut, playing five minutes. He’d been sidelined with a foot injury and practiced just 20 minutes Wednesday, his only practice time in the last couple weeks. Understandably, he's not in ideal game shape.

“After a year and change (of being out), just being out there with my teammates in front of the best fans in the country and being able to play the game I love, it was great,” McClellan said.

The junior guard made a pair of free throws for the first points of his Zag career. He also had his first assist.

“I’m probably 50, 60 percent,” McClellan said. “I was kind of nervous. I haven’t been doing anything for about three weeks but the doctor said I was all right for limited minutes. I have a long way to go.”

--Saint Mary’s had an awful night at the offensive end. The only reliable option was center Brad Waldow, and his effectiveness faded with each passing minute (more on that below).

The Gaels’ 47 points – they needed nine points in the final 2:44 to get there – equaled a season low. The Gaels, 14th in assists nationally, finished with just six on 18 baskets. They missed 13 of 15 3-pointers, several of which were way off target.

So was it bad offense or great defense? The answer, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle.

“It was just the fact that we hung with it and eventually the dam broke,” said coach Mark Few, when asked what he liked about his team’s effort. “Our defense got better and better as game went on. It was spectacular there in the second half.”

Said Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett: “We have to play better offensively and defensively. I thought in the first half we competed well; we didn’t play well offensively. The second half we didn’t do either. They’ll do that to you. They keep the heat on you and you can’t afford to have a shooting night like we did.”

--Waldow is a handful. He’s slimmed down some from last season, but he’s more aggressive and has developed into a quality passer out of double teams.

He did what he could to keep the Gaels within striking range for the first 25 minutes. By then, he scored all 14 of his points but his teammates couldn’t capitalize with most of the GU’s defensive attention directed at Waldow. They missed shots, many open looks from 3 and even a few gimmies at the rim. Waldow was 2 of 7 in the second half and turned it over three times.

“It’s not easy playing against those big fellas they have, pounding on you the whole time,” Gaels coach Randy Bennett said.

Guards Kerry Carter, Aaron Bright and Emmett Naar combined for seven points. The trio was 2 of 20 from the field, 1 of 12 on 3s. (By the way, a recent article questioned GU's guards with the following lines: "Love the experience and leadership. Hate the defense." A copy of the article was posted in their lockers.)

Gonzaga’s ability to rotate bigs on Waldow, first Przemek Karnowski and then Domantas Sabonis, made it tougher on the senior center as the game wore on. Waldow didn’t score in the final 16:40 and he didn’t return after being subbed out with 5:16 left.

Waldow was effective early, scoring or finding teammates for easy buckets. He plowed through Sabonis for two quick baskets soon after the freshman entered the game, but Sabonis adjusted and did an excellent job the rest of the way.

“We sent a lot of bodies at him,” coach Mark Few said. “He’s really gotten good. Shem is the one guy we’re more than comfortable matchup up 1-on-1. Domas’ first run, I don’t think he was quite ready for it but subsequently he did a really nice job of trying to keep ball out of there.”

At the other end, the trio of Karnowski, Sabonis and Wiltjer combined totals: 13 of 19 from the field, 30 points, 21 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks.


--Gonzaga (19-1) has eclipsed the 17-1 start by the 2013 squad as the best in school history.

--Byron Wesley scored GU’s second basket of the game with 16:25 left, his only points of the game.

--Gonzaga has won seven straight in the series, six of those by double figures.

--Sabonis made 2 of 3 shots, which actually dropped his nation-leading FG % from 72.8 to 72.6.

--Five different Zags combined to make six 3-pointers, led by Pangos’ two.

--GU led in every specialty stat category: Paint points 32-26, points off turnovers 14-8, second-chance points 14-12, fastbreak 4-2, bench 20-17.


McClellan: “We know when we play defense we can be a tough bunch to beat. Our scoring will come. We have a bunch of unselfish guys, a bunch of talented guys that know how to win.”

Few on Silas Melson: “I thought he was a real key when we grew the lead. He’s really becoming rock solid (defensively) because he moves his feet so well. He’s a good offensive player, we all know that.”

Bennett: “We started breaking down defensively. The game shouldn’t have got away the way it did.”

Bennett: “I thought Desmond (Simmons) did a nice job on Wiltjer. We did a pretty good job on them inside. We did not do a good job on their guards.”

Karnowski: “Domas did a phenomenal job rebounding in traffic. We had a hard week practicing and focusing (on rebounding), getting those 50-50 balls. It paid off, hopefully we’ll keep rebounding like that until the end of the season.”

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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