The eye-catching portion of Gonzaga’s nonconference schedule begins arriving next week against Texas A&M and hits with full force from late November through mid-December.
Until then, the eighth-ranked Zags will be heavy favorites with opportunities to fine-tune fundamentals and build continuity with a new-look roster.
“We just need to get better each and every day,” senior guard Admon Gilder said. “We have eight new guys and so we’re going to get better with experience. We’ve got Game 1 under our belt. Stay focused and we’ll be OK.”
The Zags, whose focus strayed at times in a 95-64 rout over Alabama State on Tuesday, are back at it against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
Coach Mark Few is hoping to hear more on-court communication from his players and witness fewer defensive breakdowns.
“We just got confused,” freshman forward Anton Watson said of GU’s issues covering 3-point shooters, particularly with rotations after doubling the post. “We have to fix that. The first game you know there’s going to be those, but it’s definitely a learning process.”
The Golden Lions have more entries on their fix-it list. They scored just 41 points – only Idaho State (40) and Syracuse (34) scored less in season openers – in 29-point loss to South Florida.
UAPB went big with its five starters ranging from 6-foot-4 to 6-10. The Golden Lions made just 13 field goals, four in a 15-point second half. UAPB’s game notes list 5-11 guard Jamil Wilson as a probable starter in place of 6-10 Artavious McDyess, who logged just 7 minutes in the opener.
The Golden Lions were picked seventh – Alabama State was No. 4 – in the preseason Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) poll.
Juniors Shaun Doss and Terrance Banyard were preseason All-SWAC second-team selections. Doss, a 6-5 guard/forward, scored 10 points in the opener and averaged 12.7 last season. Banyard, a 6-8 forward/center, averaged 6.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and blocked a team-high 34 shots. He was limited to two points and four boards against South Florida.
Gonzaga, which faces the SWAC’s Texas Southern on Dec. 4, is 13-0 against SWAC opponents, one of those a 92-42 rout over UAPB in 2001 as Dan Dickau scored a game-high 18 points and Brian Michaelson made his Zags debut. Dickau will be courtside as an analyst on the television broadcast and Michaelson is in his seventh season as Bulldogs assistant coach.
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