Back with my day-after Pacific post following Gonzaga’s 90-68 home victory Thursday. Come to think of it, I don’t have a lot more to add than what I put into the game story but that’s not going to stop me.
--The X factor was excellent again.
Coach Mark Few recently called the emerging Melson an X-factor after the sophomore guard’s stretch of quality play. Melson hit a pair of 3s, all four of his FTs and scored 12 points against Pacific, his fourth double-digit performance in the last six games.
Melson opened the season with double-digit scoring in four of the first six games, then went into a prolonged scoring slump with just one game in double figures (12 vs. Pepperdine on Dec. 21) in 15 contests.
“He’s been playing great pretty much this whole month,” Few said. “He’s been playing great on defense, giving us great effort pretty much all year. Now his offense is coming around and he’s still giving us that phenomenal Gary Bell-type attention to detail. He’s been a big key.”
Melson has added scoring punch off GU’s short bench, averaging 11.5 points over the last six games. He’s made 12 of 25 3s in that span. He’s already looking forward to Saturday’s showdown with Saint Mary’s.
“We let them slide,” Melson said. “We were up 15 at their place and gave the game away. We’re coming out with a lot of fire on Saturday.”
Melson will be a key figure as the Zags try to contain SMC’s fine guard tandem of Joe Rahon and Emmett Naar.
--Pacific dished up another physical effort against the Zags, repeating the bruising battle in Stockton last month. The Tigers utilized 14 players and nine picked up at least two fouls.
“They kind of throw a bunch of different defenses at you, make it kind of a ratty game,” forward Kyle Wiltjer said. “Sometimes you’re only up 8 or 10 points and you feel like you’re winning by a lot but it’s a low-scoring game.”
Pacific finished with 26 fouls and Gonzaga took advantage by hitting 25 of 29 free throws. In the first meeting, the Tigers were whistled for 26 fouls and GU went 20 of 32.
“That’s a tough team to play,” Few said. “I know their record (7-18) doesn’t reflect it because they had a lot of those guys sitting out a long time (due to suspensions from an academic investigation). They’re just a physical team that’s hard to get separation from.”
--Wiltjer bounced back offensively from a rough night against SMU with 26 points, four 3s and 6 of 6 FTs. He had a couple of assists and just one turnover in 26 minutes.
It took a while for the 6-10 forward to get in a groove. He drove on a defender in the lane and hit a lefty flip shot five minutes into the game, but then came up limping after a collision on a rebound under GU’s basket.
He exited for a short time, returned to hit a couple free throws and a 3-pointer but he picked up his third foul with 1:05 left in the half. Wiltjer took over in the second half with 19 points in just 13 minutes.
“Obviously it was a frustrating first half,” Wiltjer said. “I was in foul trouble, but my teammates did a good job of keeping me positive. I got aggressive in the second half and it was really good to see it going in.”
Afterward, Wiltjer had ice on his ankle, near the foot injury that he suffered Dec. 31 against Santa Clara, but didn’t seem too concerned. He said his foot had pretty much healed with the exception of occasional toe pain.
STATS OF NOTE
--Gonzaga has followed its last 11 losses with victories. In other words, the Zags haven’t lost consecutive games since Feb. 20 and 22, 2014, against BYU and San Diego.
--Josh Perkins had six assists and two turnovers in 27 minutes. He’s bumped his season assists average to 4.15 and his assist-to-turnover ratio to 1.96. In WCC play, he’s at 4.53 assists and 2.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. In the last five games, he’s at 6.4 and 3.2.
--GU has had at least 14 assists in its last six games.
--The Zags are shooting 82 percent at the FT line in the last five games.
Pacific interim coach Mike Burns on his first ejection (he picked up a pair of technical fouls for arguing a call early in the second half): “I didn’t think it was coming, either. I knew the first technical was coming. But I just wanted to get an explanation for a few things, I really did. I thought our kids were owed that. That's fine. I should never have put myself in that position, and that’s unfortunate.”
Few: “Tonight was tonight and Saturday will be Saturday. Obviously it was nice for some of those guys to see the ball go in and build some confidence.”