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GU basketball: Considering challenge, Zags defense solid

The morning after every Gonzaga men’s basketball game, beat writer Jim Meehan shares his thoughts on the game and more insight from the coaches and players. What follows is a sampling of his blog post Saturday morning following the win over St. John’s. Find more from Meehan at spokesman.com/sportslink.

 Some of the final stats might suggest otherwise but Gonzaga’s defense, for the most part, was solid against an undersized, guard-oriented opponent. St. John’s is a handful to guard with virtually every player possessing the ability to penetrate and the athleticism to finish.

“It was hard for us big guys because we’re not used to guarding such small guards,” said the 6-foot-10 Domantas Sabonis, who often found himself matched up against a 6-3 or 6-4 wing.

The Zags limited the Red Storm to 41 points through 31 minutes but St. John’s put up 25 points in the closing nine minutes. Still, SJU made just 37 percent of its shots.

On one second-half possession, Kyle Wiltjer swatted a driving D’Angelo Harrison’s shot near the rim. The guard moved outside and had his jumper blocked by Kyle Dranginis. Sir’Dominic Pointer tried to navigate around Przemek Karnowski but the best he could do was an errant, off-balance shot in the lane.

“We felt like we didn’t play to the best of our defensive capabilities against Georgia,” Byron Wesley said. “We were working on shrinking gaps. We knew they were going to make some tough shots – they’re athletic – but we did a pretty good job.”

• Gary Bell Jr. was frustrated and happy, at the same time.

He fouled out Wednesday and picked up four fouls Friday.

“That was the first time ever,” Bell said of fouling out. “I have no idea. I guess I’m too aggressive. I asked the refs what I should do out there. They said, ‘Keep your hands back.’ I tried that and got called for a foul every time.”

The irony, which wasn’t lost on a smiling Bell, is that coaches are always pushing Bell to be more aggressive, particularly at the offensive end, where he’s one of the better 3-point shooters in college basketball. Bell made 2-of-4 3s against St. John’s. He’s 14 of 30 for the season.

• Bell and the Zags enjoyed using the Knicks’ locker room.

“I don’t know whose locker this is, but this one here (next to Bell’s) is Melo’s,” said Bell, referring to Carmelo Anthony. “We looked in there and saw some Jordans. That’s pretty cool.”

Stats of note

• Wesley scored 10 of Gonzaga’s last 15 points. He finished with 12 points.

• Gonzaga is 73-14 in November under Few. The Zags are 24-1 over the last four Novembers, the lone loss to Dayton at the 2013 Maui Invitational.

• GU became the first team to shoot at least 50 percent against the Red Storm. The Zags hit 53 percent, 56.5 in the second half.

• Pangos is one 3-pointer from tying Matt Santangelo for third place in school history. Santangelo made 252 career 3s.

Quotebook

• Few, on whether Pangos makes his job easier: “I sleep a solid eight hours at night. I’ve been blessed with some good ones (point guards) but yeah, he’s a special guy.”

• SJU’s Harrison on his charging foul with 15 seconds left: “My job was to play. The whistle didn’t go my way.”

• Few: “Both games were kind of grinders. I thought this one might go up-and-down. When we made our run, we were able to get the break going but this was kind of played at a Big East kind of pace.”

• Few on Sabonis: “He’s basically a starter.”

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