They are who Gonzaga men’s basketball coach Mark Few thought they would be.
As might be expected with seven players making their GU debuts, the Bulldogs looked sharp at times and sloppy at others as they opened the regular season with a 92-74 victory over Mississippi Valley State in front of 6,000 fans Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I think what you need to expect to see is this is a young team that’s going to go through stretches where they play well and do some things and they’re probably going to go through stretches where they’re not going to play so well,” said Few, whose team visits No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday. “That’s what we saw tonight.
“We mixed some of the young guys in there and they didn’t function too well. We were able to get the main group in there and they’d kind of build (the lead) back up again.”
Veterans Matt Bouldin, Robert Sacre and Steven Gray combined for 55 points, 20 rebounds and 12 assists. Freshman forward Elias Harris made his first five shots from the field and was 6 of 6 at the free-throw line before he missed a shot with 16:30 left in the second half. He finished with 18 points and seven boards in 19 minutes.
The Delta Devils, who lost 94-66 to Washington State on Friday night, trailed by as many as 23 in the first half, but they fought back to make it interesting.
Gonzaga led by 10 with the game barely 4 minutes old, but the Delta Devils hit three 3-pointers to close within 24-20. Harris, who sat for a sizeable chunk of the half after picking up his second foul, hit a putback and then a 4-footer while being fouled. That launched a 21-2 run that Demetri Goodson capped with a steal and breakaway layup with 1:18 remaining.
Mississippi Valley State rattled off the last eight points to narrow the deficit to 45-30 at half.
GU’s lead dwindled to 11 after Jason Holmes’ 3-pointer with 15:50 remaining. MVSU had a chance to cut it to single digits, but Michael Mayo’s jumper was off target. Bouldin hit two 3s – the first snapping a 4-minute dry spell – and a transition layup in a 22-7 spurt that put Gonzaga comfortably in front 71-45.
“A lot of good and bad,” said Bouldin, who made 4 of 9 3-pointers. “We had a few breakdowns offensively and defensively, but there were a lot of good things. It was a good opener to get our feet wet, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Harris and Sacre provided a strong low-post presence. They combined to make 12 of 17 shots and 11 of 15 free throws. Three Delta Devils fouled out, many of the fouls whistled in the lane as they tried to defend Harris and Sacre. GU held a 40-24 edge in points in the paint.
“Those two are playing well together. I think ‘E’ (Elias) is starting to get an understanding of what he can do in there,” Few said of Harris, who played on Germany’s national team this summer. “It’s kind of a different game, a different key and officiated differently than what he’s used to. Every day he’s learning about what he can do and what he can’t do.”
Gray made two 3-pointers, all four of his free throws, grabbed five rebounds and handed out a team-high seven assists. He had a busy week after his role in a staged reading at GU’s Magnuson Theatre the three previous nights.
“It’s been a great week,” Gray said. “One of the most fun weeks I’ve had in a while.”
Gonzaga 92, MVSU 74
|Miss Valley St. (0-2)||Min||M-A||M-A||O-T||A||PF||PTS|
Percentages: FG .419, FT .611. 3-Point Goals: 11-26, .423 (Cheeks 2-5, Mayo 2-5, Behling 2-4, Jackson 2-4, Holmes 2-2, Burwell 1-1, Newsome 0-4, Mack 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 1 (Behling). Turnovers: 15 (Studivant, J. Holmes, Cheeks 3, Behling 1, Newsome 3, Mack 1, Jackson 2, Mayo). Steals: 9 (Cheeks, Behling, Burwell, Donald, Jackson, Mayo, Cox). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .556, FT .658. 3-Point Goals: 7-20, .350 (Bouldin 4-9, Gray 2-5, Vilarino 1-1, Goodson 0-2, Harris 0-1, Arop 0-1, Olynyk 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 5 (Sacre 3, Foster 2). Turnovers: 17 (Harris 2, Sacre 3, Goodson, Bouldin 4, Gray 3, Arop 2, Gibbs, Foster). Steals: 6 (Harris, Goodson 3, Bouldin, Gray). Technical Fouls: None.
Halftime–Gonzaga 45, Mississippi Valley State 30. A–6000.
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