HOUSTON – Mark Few’s celebratory handstand following Sunday’s win over Iowa went viral and prompted “Do the Few” imitators across Gonzaga’s campus.
It also prompted Few to remind junior forward Kyle Wiltjer, who captured Few’s gymnastics and Eric McClellan’s back-flip on his phone and put it on Twitter, that “what we do in the locker room stays in the locker room.”
It didn’t stay in this case, but judging by the reaction on social media Zags fans were thrilled to see the normally reserved coach’s enthusiasm and the festive response of his players.
“Yeah, he took the show away from me, man,” McClellan joked. “He won with the handstand. The back-flip wasn’t as cool. For him to do that, it’s good for our fans and our program.”
Few is more than cool with his players taking the time to celebrate team accomplishments. Somewhere in the Zags’ 34-win season the victories kept stacking up but not the corresponding joy.
“So many expectations have been put upon them where they’re supposed to do this,” Few said. “I didn’t feel, the staff didn’t feel they were celebrating wins. It was becoming like a job.”
It’s been a concern for roughly 5 or 6 years, Few noted. Gonzaga has dominated the WCC for years and it has been favored in 35 of 36 games this season (Arizona was the exception).
“We’ve had groups, the expectations were taking the life out of them,” Few said. “These guys did a great job 10, 11 games ago. They came in after one game, I forget which one, screaming and yelling in the locker room. It was exactly what we needed.”
The Zags hope for more locker-room merriment following Friday’s contest against 11th-seeded UCLA at NRG Stadium.
“Throughout the season we had those long stretches that we kept winning games and winning games,” junior center Przemek Karnowski said. “I feel we kind of started thinking we were going to win every game. Then we played BYU at home and kind of hit the wall.
“That was a wake-up call. We started playing better and harder in Las Vegas and then even better in Seattle. We started building on that and started having more fun.”
Sweet 16 diet
Gary Bell Jr. is still listed at 6-feet-2 and 214 pounds, but he feels a tad lighter after the rout of Iowa sent Gonzaga into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.
“It is kind of a weight off,” Bell said. “A lot of people doubted us getting to the 16 and we have a great team. We proved a lot of people wrong and we’re looking forward to keeping it going.”
The Zags have been to the Sweet 16 six times, five under Few. The coach took great satisfaction that GU’s four-year starting backcourt of Bell and Kevin Pangos reached the tournament’s second weekend for the first time.
“It’s huge,” Karnowski said. “I understand when you go from 32 to 16 to 8 … you know there’s just one winner in this thing. We have to play as strong as we can. We know what we do, we’re 34-2. I like the way the team is playing.”
By the NCAA numbers
The Zags are putting up impressive stats through two tournament wins. They’re shooting 56.4 percent, 44.7 percent on 3-pointers. They’re at 18 assists per game and hold a plus-11.5 rebounding edge.
Gonzaga, with 173 points, has scored more points than any team left in the field. GU has converted 24 opponents’ turnovers into 46 points.
Individually, Pangos passed Richie Frahm into third place in tournament scoring (130 points). Pangos’ 26 3-pointers is tops in program history. Domantas Sabonis is averaging a double-double (12.5 points, 10 rebounds). Wiltjer is averaging 23.5 points on 75-percent shooting. He’s 6 of 9 on 3-pointers. Karnowski is averaging 10 points, five rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 blocks.
“We played great (against Iowa),” Few said. “We got to move on and stay alive for another week. If we want to continue advancing we have to play great.”
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