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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Knight cured what ailed Zags

SAN DIEGO – College basketball coaches will tell you there isn’t a magic pill you can prescribe to make sure your team comes out energized and ready to play every night out.

But the Gonzaga Bulldogs seem to have found one in junior forward Erroll Knight, whose presence gave the Zags a huge boost of energy and effort during Saturday afternoon’s 68-56 West Coast Conference win over San Diego.

“It’s the E-pill; we took our E-pill tonight,” Bulldogs co-captain Ronny Turiaf said in addressing the difference between the vigorous, bouncy approach the Zags used against the Toreros and the languid effort put forth in Thursday night’s 73-70 upset loss to San Francisco.

The E-pill, Turiaf explained, is Knight, a 6-foot-7 junior guard and defensive stopper who missed Thursday’s game with a sprained foot.

“And it’s a pretty special pill,” Turiaf added. “It makes a big difference to see Erroll out there with his headband, working hard and talking. We all know what he can do, and when we have him on the court we play with more confidence and give that extra effort, because we know he has our back.”

Knight wasn’t 100 percent healthy on Saturday, but it hardly mattered as he bounded around the floor, getting a hand on several USD passes and creating general havoc.

“Again, it just raised our energy level,” Bulldogs coach Mark Few said of Knight’s return. “You can’t help but notice him out there, and we were able to go back to pressing and doing some things we can’t normally do with him out of the lineup.”

Knight’s numbers – five points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal – were mundane, at best. But it was obvious the Zags were a much different team with him on the floor.

For additional proof, check with the Toreros, who made only 2 of 20 second-half field goal tries.

“That’s what I do for the team, is bring energy and defense,” Knight said. “And I think it helped tonight, especially in the second half. They went 2 for 20? That’s probably the best (defensive field-goal) percentage you’ll see all year.”

It could not immediately be determined where USD’s 10 percent second-half shooting might fall in the NCAA record book. But it is hard to imagine anything worse.

“It’s a mindset thing,” Knight said of GU’s defensive dominance. “We’ve played great teams all across the country and usually come out playing hard and ready to go. But we came out kind of lackadaisical against San Francisco and they gave it to us, plain and simple.”

And all Knight could do was watch.

“It feels good to see that after a low like we had against San Francisco, we can come back together and sustain a high level of energy and a high level of defense over a long period of time,” Turiaf said. “Hopefully, we can keep it up the rest of the year.”

Which, perhaps, the Zags can – provided the NCAA doesn’t put the E-pill on its list of banned substances.

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