Gonzaga’s first WCC road game brought a customary spirited effort from the home team.
Coach Mark Few had warned his players what was coming, but the message didn’t resonate until the second half when the Zags rallied from an eight-point deficit to thump Pacific 81-61 on Saturday.
Two more road dates await GU this week, likely in rowdier environments against foes with far better records than the Tigers. The fifth-ranked Zags (14-0, 2-0 WCC) visit San Francisco (11-4, 1-1) on Thursday and Portland on Saturday (9-5, 2-0).
“It’s a challenge not only for the new guys, just the intensity these teams are coming at us with and you don’t get do-overs, but we have some other guys that come from programs that haven’t won and quite frankly haven’t fared well on the road,” Few said. “They need to learn the characteristics that do make you fare well on the road. It’s not just our young guys.”
The Zags weren’t sharp in the first half of their WCC home opener against Pepperdine before pulling away for a 92-62 win last Thursday.
“Like coach (Few) says, especially when we play on the road, we have to take the fight to them, be the first to hit,” freshman forward Zach Collins said. “We didn’t do that in first half in both games (last week).”
It’s an adjustment Few would like his players to make in a hurry.
“To be honest, we didn’t play great in either game,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to playing a full 40 minutes.”
Junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who played Saturday despite dealing with what Few called the stomach flu, didn’t practice Monday. He did participate in some drills Tuesday.
“We’re crossing our fingers that the stuff Nigel had doesn’t spread,” Few said. “He was off (Monday), after a day off (Sunday). It’s the coaches’ and players’ worst nightmare when you get that stomach flu the day of a game.”
Freshman forward Killian Tillie seems fine after taking a hard spill in the first half against Pacific.
“He’s kind of Gumby-like,” Few said. “He got the wind knocked out of him. It didn’t look good, but he’s a tough guy.”
Mathews’ TV homecoming
Thursday’s game will be at San Francisco’s War Memorial Gym, site of senior guard Jordan Mathews’ television debut. Mathews was 3 years old when he joined his father Phil, then the head coach at USF, on an episode of “Teletubbies” shot inside the gym.
“It’s going to be weird going back,” Mathews said. “It’s on YouTube. Look up Teletubbies basketball and it’s there. My mom watches it all the time.”
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