Some nights just aren’t for the books.
Silas Melson knew that Saturday, when the Gonzaga Bulldogs shut down BYU 68-60.
It was an unusual line of numbers that followed Melson’s name on the stat sheet. The senior finished the night with just one make – a 3 in the second half. It was his only make in eight attempts, four of which were from 3-point range.
It was Melson’s worst offensive performance this season, but such nights don’t seem to put a damper on his spirit. He sat in the locker room after the game with a big smile across his face, and rightfully so, considering Melson has been a huge contributor to Gonzaga’s success this season.
“He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves,” guard Josh Perkins said. “He’s a huge part of our team – he might be the reason why we’re so good.”
Just looking at the numbers in the past month, Perkins might be right.
Melson, who is one of six Zags averaging in double digits this season, has averaged 12.7 points in the seven games leading up to Saturday that date back to Gonzaga’s win over Portland on January 11.
The majority of those scores are coming from 3-point range. Since January 11, Melson is 47.6 percent effective from beyond the arc, hitting 20 of his 42 attempts, including his unusual 1-for-4 performance on Saturday. Before hitting a season-high seven 3s at Portland, Melson was hitting just 33 percent of his 3-point shots (26 of 78).
His control of the ball on the offensive end is nothing to shrug at, either. Following Saturday’s showing in which he committed no turnovers, Melson posted a 2.37 assist-to-turnover ratio, the best on the team. In 25 games this season, he has committed 1.13 turnovers, the lowest of the double-digit scorers.
“Si’s been stepping up,” guard Zach Norvell Jr. said. “He’s been great for us on both ends, making big time plays on the offensive end. But not only that, he’s getting big time stops.”
Melson’s has molded himself into a tough defender for the Zags over the years, particularly this season when Gonzaga was in need of stronger defense on the perimeter.
Even in his shooting lulls in games like Saturday, Melson seems to find a way to spark a quiet defense against the Cougars on Saturday.
He recorded a pair of steals in the final minutes of the game, beginning with a swipe at 4:36 in the second half that took away the Cougars’ opportunity to tie the score. Melson fed the ball to Perkins, who scored on a short jumper that extended Gonzaga’s lead to 57-52.
In the last 20 seconds, Melson snatched the ball off a bad pass from BYU’s TJ Haws to Jahshire Hardnett. The steal put a stop to BYU’s last attempt at a one-possession game.
Melson’s pressure switched between Haws, who scored a game-high 22 points, and Elijah Bryant, who was held to just one make in 11 attempts.
“Defensively, he’s the guy we really trust. He’s got a lot of experience,” assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said.
Melson doesn’t take that trust from his coaches and his teammates lightly. His shots might not have been falling in at the right times on Saturday, but his constant pressure on tough opposing shooters is what matters most to Melson when he conducts his self evaluation after a game.
“Everybody here and there … might have a bad shooting game, but defense has to be consistent,” Melson said. “Defense has to travel wherever you play.”
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