As Max alluded to in his preview, tonight was the game many Gonzaga fans were looking to as the start of a very important stretch of games. The goal of these games was to finally learn something about this team. After the past two hours, I think the only thing I learned was that Notre Dame is quite atrocious. The Zags led nearly wire-to-wire tonight and wound up defeating the Irish by a score of 73-53. Four Bulldogs were in double figures tonight including Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, Kevin Pangos, and David Stockton.
For me, the stars of the night for the Zags were David Stockton and Elias Harris. In an otherwise sloppy game, David Stockton provided a great spark off the bench and had one of his more efficient games as a Zag. The reserve point guard scored 15 points on 5-6 from the floor and had three rebounds and three assists. He did exactly what he needed to; took shots when open and hit them. Overall, a very solid and encouraging effort from Stockton.
Elias Harris was a beast on the glass tonight. I don't recall ever being so impressed with Harris' effort on the glass. It is clear that he is not only healthy but working hard and being pushed in practice. He is still struggling a bit to find consistency offensively but I can't help but be encouraged by what he has done in other facets of the game.
While it is hard to not be enthusiastic about a 20-point win over a Big East foe, there are still a number of lingering doubts in my mind about this team. Most notably, the early season play of Marquise Carter and Sam Dower. I'm one of the biggest Marquise Carter fans. When he is playing well, he is about as smooth as it gets and we saw that last year. This year has been rough for Carter and tonight was another example. In 32 minutes, Carter was 2-5 from the floor with a couple rebounds, assists, and turnovers. It was a pedestrian effort from a guy that I had big hopes for. With a huge December approaching, this team is going to struggle mightily if Carter can't regain his form from last season. In Dower's case, he's still just struggling with his confidence offensively. Teams know he is excellent with his left and are taking that away. Hopefully, he can provide some quality minutes in big games in the near future to gain some confidence.
Saturday against Illinois will be quite a test. While the jury is still out on them as well, it will be a road game in a hostile environment against a Big 10 foe. This will be the first time the young Bulldog freshmen get a taste of a true division one road game. This is why it is so crucial for vets like Carter and Dower to step up and do it quickly or else Saturday could really be an eye-opener.
As for me, 5-0 is a great place to be. I just can't wait to see this team face some serious adversity. We will know much more then.