I'm starting to wonder if we will look back at one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in Gonzaga history and remember the Lewis and Clark game as the most important of the season. As strange as it may sound, it seems the dominant win over Lewis and Clark gave this team confidence following a rather demoralizing three-game losing streak. Since the 103-61 win, the Zags have knocked off three teams that will likely be playing in the NCAA Tournament, with this most recent victory over Oklahoma State being easily the most impressive of the season.
As I mentioned in the preview I wrote before the Lafayette game, it has become clear that this isn't your typical Gonzaga team, and frankly, I think this season could be a bit of a turning point for the program. In just the last four games, I have seen this group work hard to shed a long-standing reputation of Gonzaga being a soft program that could only win games by trying to run-and-gun the opponent. However, since allowing 81 points in the loss against Notre Dame, Mark Few and his team haven't allowed any opponent to score more than 64 points, with the last three not even reaching the 60-point mark.
If there is anything to take from this game, it's the fact that the rotation is effectively being cut down to about eight guys. Mangisto Arop clearly demonstrated that he needs to be on the court, as he played probably his best game as a Zag. I'm not sure if Arop should be starting over The Hoff when he returns from his ankle injury, but it seems like that is the one position where there is clearly some sort of platoon. While I have been calling for Sam Dower to get more minutes, if this commitment to defense is truly something the coaching staff is going to stick with, then Sam needs to earn his minutes by displaying consistency on the defensive end when he is on the court.
It will be interesting to see if this group can carry over the momentum against Wake Forest tomorrow. It is vital to keep the energy high heading into what should be an incredibly interesting opening game of WCC play against Portland. However, for the first time in a long time, I can openly admit that I am happy with the direction this team is headed.