Haven't seen one in a while, so I thought I'd take a stab at writing one up:
Kevin Foster, the WCC's leading scorer, has been accustomed to giving GU fits defensively.
Then he was introduced to Gary Bell Jr.
Kevin Foster and Evan Roquemore went a combined 6 for 25 as Gonzaga used tight defense to overcome a slow start to cruise by the Broncos 82 - 60. Gary Bell Jr. guarded Foster for the majority of the game, and it was clear from the get-go who the Zags priority was defensively. Foster finished the night with 9 points off of 2-9 shooting, well below his season average, largely because of the pressure defense applied by GU's talented freshman guard. GBJ added 15 points, including his first dunk in a Gonzaga uniform.
After a slow offensive start, who better to bring Gonzaga out of an offensive slump than Mr. Offense himself, Sam Dower? Dower poured in 17 points, including a three pointer to give the Zags the lead at the end of the first half, and they never looked back. Elias Harris had 12 points, Pangos had 10 points and 5 assists, and Gonzaga owned the boards in the second half to cap off a good defensive effort. The Zags are now 3-0 in conference with St. Mary's lying in the wake on Thursday.
One thing that is particularly interesting about this team has been their commitment to defense. Sure, there were a few plays when GU fell asleep and gave up some open looks, but for the first time since I have been watching Gonzaga play, I can actually say that the perimeter hasn't been killing us this year. I am aware that we are still a long shot from "great" defense, but it is progress that I am excited to see. Elias Harris, in particular, has shown great strides in his ability to guard ball screens up top as well as his man one-on-one, and has had several nice blocks, defensive rebounds, and overall hustle plays over the last 2-3 games.
Seeing this team play good defense is something that will allow us to overcome slow nights offensively, but at the same time we cannot spot the St. Mary's and BYU's of the league 10 points as we did tonight with SCU. Gonzaga's biggest issue on offense has been finishing around the rim this year, and it was present again early on. Given our strength inside and our significant size advantage over WCC teams, this has been confounding, but Gonzaga has made up for it with excellent perimeter shooting and consistent pressure defense so far. The depth of our bench, especially with the addition of Edi, has been one of the more apparent differences between us and every other WCC team this season.
Another promising sign from the night was the play of Marquise Carter. Marquise has been struggling this year on both ends of the court, but is beginning to show some of the confidence that made him such a huge part of last years team. His great transition pass to Stockton for a lay-up in the second half capped off what I felt was an overall solid game for Carter. Continuing to get him minutes and help him find a groove again may be key for continued success into March.
Here's to another good weekend for the Zags. Given Saint Mary's strengths with ball movement and perimeter shooting, Thursday will be the real test to see how far we have progressed as a defensive unit. Hopefully we can continue the strong play and come out as fired up from the start against SMC as we did in the second half against SCU.