Gonzaga’s coaching staff had an opportunity for a longer look at Jun Seok Yeo and Luka Krajnovic against a Division I opponent in Tuesday’s blowout win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Yeo got the starting nod against the overmatched Golden Lions, No. 332 in the NET rankings, in place of freshman wing Dusty Stromer, who was coming off his two best offensive games – 10 points vs. Cal State Bakersfield and 15 against USC.
Stromer has logged heavy minutes, averaging 36 over the past three games and 30.6 for the season. He’s one of three Zags averaging 30-plus minutes. Guard Ryan Nembhard, who averaged 35.5 minutes in GU’s first seven games, played 25 ½ minutes. Guard Nolan Hickman, averaging 34.4 minutes, was on the court for 28 minutes.
“The nice thing is we’re actually trying to grow some of those other guys to get more minutes, more experience and get a little more depth, but it works both ways,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “You have to be able to function out there on the floor, too.
“That’s the sole reason why I threw Jun into the starting lineup, just because it forced me to give him 5 minutes because Dusty is playing so good. Sometimes you get into one of these games and it’s only a five-point game, I’m going to leave Dusty out there. And we got Luka in there early. I think we’ll keep trying to do that whenever we can.”
On a fastbreak with just over 4 minutes remaining, Krajnovic fed Yeo, who was hammered by a defender as he attempted to finish at the rim. He hit both free throws.
After a slow start, Yeo had a strong closing stretch in the second half. The 6-foot-8 native of South Korean finished with 10 points, made 4 of 6 field-goal attempts and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes. It was his longest stint of the season against a Division I opponent.
Nearly half of Yeo’s 48 minutes this season came against NAIA Eastern Oregon when he had nine points in 22 minutes.
“I thought he did real well,” GU forward Graham Ike said. “He responded real well to some adversity early and he just kept on attacking. He kept his eyes on the prize when he was going downhill to that rim.”
Krajnovic, a 6-5 guard from Croatia, saw 21 minutes of playing time. He chipped in seven points, three rebounds and three assists. He made 3 of 5 shots from the floor.
Krajnovic had played 26 minutes in three game appearances, including 20 minutes versus Eastern Oregon. Tuesday was his first action since a 5-minute stint against Syracuse in the second game of the Maui Invitational.
Few said Krajnovic and Yeo both played better in the second half.
“(But) they still have those stretches where they’re struggling a little bit,” he said. “I think a light is starting to go off for Jun. He’s attacking the basket pretty good with some force and starting to understand conceptually what we’re trying to do defensively.”
Stromer finished with eight points, two 3-pointers, four rebounds and four assists in 24-plus minutes.
Twelve Zags played and 11 scored.
“We know how hard they work and they’re in the gym just as much as anyone,” Braden Huff said. “To see them get those minutes, … it’s a lot of fun to watch them do their thing on the court.”