Prior to shipping off for a three game road swing which includes a date with BYU, Gonzaga welcomed in former assistant coach Bill Grier and the San Diego Toreros. Gonzaga, which had won two straight since getting throttled on the road against Saint Mary's, was still working to back in the groove. Tonight against the Toreros, the Bulldogs showed some signs of improvement as they took down USD by a score of 77-60. It was the frontcourt that did a majority of the damage tonight. Robert Sacre, led the way for the Zags with 18 points and 11 rebounds. It was Rob's first double double since mid-November and is hopefully a sign of things to come as he has had his fair share of ups and downs this season. Elias Harris joined Rob with a solid performance tonight. The German forward finished with 15 points and 13 boards.
While the Zags eventually pulled away in the second half, the first twenty minutes was another frustrating stretch when it was obvious who the better team was, but the Bulldogs simply could not play consistently enough to pull away. In the end the size of Gonzaga was just way too overpowering for the Toreros to match for forty minutes. Harris, Sacre, and Sam Dower dominated the stat sheet in the second half and carried the Zags to the win.
While Rob and Elias' performance tonight was a treat, one of the biggest storylines was Guy Landry Edi's insertion into the starting lineup. The junior college transfer has been seeing inconsistent minutes since missing the first eight games due to suspension. In Gonzaga's previous game against San Francisco, Edi came off the bench to score 15 points and help lead the Zags past the Dons. He was rewarded for that performance tonight and got his first (of hopefully many) starts in a Bulldog uniform. Edi played 26 minutes in total and did a lot of good things. Most importantly, he cut down on some of the mistakes he had been making prior to tonight, specifically turnovers. Not only that, but he had a pretty sweet dunk tonight.
The next four games are what you could categorize as a "season defining stretch" for this team. Games at Portland, BYU, and Pepperdine before coming home to host Saint Mary's on February 9th should tell us all we need to know about this team. It appears the squad is trending upwards but the thing that will really push this group over the hump in my estimation is solid, reliable play from the small forward position. The past two games have been positive from Guy Landry Edi, but we'll see if he can turn the corner from "offensive spark" to "offensive force". If he can, this team can really hit a whole new level.