Often times in sports, players and events are assaulted with ridiculous superlatives and nonsensical sayings. Tonight, there weren't enough words in the English dictionary to throw at Gonzaga freshman Elias Harris. We've been praising Harris all season long but tonight he took his game to a completely different stratosphere. In the most intimate road atmosphere Gonzaga will play in all season, Harris showed the poise of a senior and led the Gonzaga Bulldogs to an enormous road win over Saint Mary's, 89-82.
In total, the German power forward scored 31 points on 13-20 shooting. His insanely efficient offensive play aside, Harris also pulled down 13 rebounds, five coming on the offensive end. I also believe he had three, or possibly four, enormous dunks on second chance opportunities and alley-oops. His dunks were just a small piece of his evening. Harris hit from all over the court, including a three-pointer and a number of smooth mid-range jumpers to go along with his flurry of drives to the rack. He's molding himself into the total package offensively and you'd have to be a raving cynic to critique his importance to this team tonight.
Harris' great night was even sweeter, and more important, because it came opposite of Omar Samhan also having a monstrous game. The player every Gonzaga fan loves to hate responded from an early hard foul committed by Robert Sacre to score 31 points on 13-22 shooting. Samhan was exceptional in his own right and also had 12 rebounds but I don't think any Gonzaga cared about Elias ruining his last chance to beat Gonzaga in Moraga.
These two stars did not act alone for their teams. Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray both gave excellent efforts for the Zags tonight. Bouldin's 22 points and five assists were huge and he always seemed to step up at big times for Gonzaga. I personally believe that tonight was one of Steven Gray's best nights as a Gonzaga Bulldog. Gray showed remarkable tenacity and a will to win all night as he scored 14 points, pulled down 13 boards, and delivered four assists. His forced shots were rare and he made some huge plays for this team and stayed on the attack.
For Saint Mary's, they had also touted a ridiculous freshman coming into this game and he lived up to the hype. Matt Dellavedova is a kid I had heard a lot about but never really focused on and he was sensational. The newest Austrailian member of Saint Mary's kept the Gaels in the game in the first half when Samhan was struggling and showed great maturity in his own right. He finished the evening with 23 points and never missed from deep (4-4). What's even more astonishing is that he never subbed out of the game.
keep reading after the jump for more reaction to Saint Mary's-Gonzaga...
Even though Gonzaga walked away with a huge win tonight, there are always some negatives. I'm sure everyone knows by this time that the Zags are just not a good free-throw shooting team. Every starter missed some free throws included two misses for Goodson, Sacre, and Harris and three misses for Bouldin. Matt's misses came at a very significant time in the game as did Sacre's. These guys are two of the leaders of this team and missing at this kind of rate is inexcusable if they are going to reach their potential. All in all, it was a 12-22 night from the charity stripe for the Bulldogs and it felt like they shot 2-60.
I was also pretty underwhelmed by two of Gonzaga's starters, Robert Sacre and Demetri Goodson. Starting with Meech, he really never got involved offensively and after that palming violation in the first half, things seemed to unravel. Overall, it was a pretty terrible game for Goodson. He committed some silly fouls and it was pretty obvious that the best lineup did not involve him. Games like this will happen and I expect some backlash regarding his play but ups and downs are going to be part of his game. His defense on Mickey McConnell early in the game was stellar but tonight, his negatives outweighed his positives. Sacre, on the other hand, was just inconsistent all night long. He showed some outstanding glimpses of being a solid low post threat at times. He hit a couple of nice sweeping hook shots and some turnarounds but he was no answer for Omar Samhan all night, especially in the second half. He flopped about three times only to have Omar staring at him from above after a dunk. I wouldn't say he had a terrible night but after Rob's hard foul on Omar he really became a deer in the headlights.
The bench didn't see much time in general aside from Bol Kong. Kong was out there for 26 minutes and he did some nice things on the boards, coming down with four but only took one shot attempt and airballed it. He made a few nice hustle plays but, other than that, was a nonfactor. I was happy with the minutes that Will Foster and Kelly Olynyk gave the Zags. Foster connected on a nice post move and poked the ball away from a Gaels offensive player to lead to a steal. Olynyk was 2-2 in very limited time and really looked good. I was surprised not to see him out there more. The final member of the Gonzaga rotation was Mangisto Arop and he looked like a freshman. He hit two shots, including a smooth jumper from the corner but looked a little rushed out there on the offensive side. As usual, he hit the boards hard and came down with three on the evening.
The team stats that will jump out are obviously Gonzaga shooting nearly 60% from the floor and outrebounding the Gaels 45-25. It's tough for a team to win when they shoot about 50% from the free throw line but the two previous stats obviously make up for it.
What it really came down to, however, was the two teams' supporting casts. It was pretty obvious that both Samhan and Harris had the "I will not let my team lose" attitude but, fortunately for Gonzaga, Elias just had better players around him. With the win, Mark Few's team moves to 13-3 and will finish this treacherous road stretch on Saturday in San Diego to take on Bill Grier and the Toreros.