What an exciting first glimpse at the 2012-13 Gonzaga Bulldogs.
While enthusiasm must be tempered due to the quality of the opposition, everyone finally saw bits and pieces of why there is so much hype for this team. The obvious headline out of this game is the play of freshman Przemek Karnowski. In his first regular season game, Karnowski not only looked the part, he played the part. Karnowski looked like a veteran out there for Mark Few and led the Bulldogs with 22 points in 20 minutes played - that's efficiency folks. While he made some mistakes here and there, he connected on 10 of his 16 attempts from the field and looked completely at ease doing so. Everything we had heard, from his soft hands to his smooth baby hook, appears to be reality. When Robert Sacre was at Gonzaga, it always seemed like he was playing offense in fast-forward. With Karnowski, it is in total slow motion. He is deliberate and very polished offensively. He was a pleasure to watch last night. As I said earlier, tempering enthusiasm is a must. There wasn't anyone on Southern Utah that was tall enough to read the back of his uniform. West Virginia will be a different ballgame. He won't be able to move freely in the paint against a Bob Huggins coached basketball team.
There were a number of excellent performances last night. For me, the guy I was most excited to see was...Guy. Throughout the summer, folks have been excited to see what year two would mean for Landry Edi. Last night was a very, very good showing of his improvements. Most notably, he looks comfortable and confident in his role. Each time a junior college player comes to Gonzaga - it takes time to adjust. We have seen it with every transfer in the Mark Few era and it looks like things may have clicked for Guy. He was 6-8 from the field and also collected 7 rebounds. He did a little bit of everything for the Bulldogs last night and finished with 16 points in 21 minutes.
David Stockton, Kevin Pangos, Elias Harris, and Sam Dower joined Karnowski and Landry Edi in double figures. Dower looked very smooth offensively and connected on 7-14 attempts from the floor. There are improvements to be made. Two of the major areas that need to be addressed by Monday are rebounding and free throw shooting. The Zags were 17-30 from the charity stripe last night. For a home court game, that is pretty unacceptable. While the Zags did outrebound the Thunderbirds by 4 (33-29), it was pretty putrid in the first half and Gonzaga's two main 'bigs' - Przemek Karnowski and Sam Dower - only combined for 6 rebounds. A season ago, the Zags outrebounded West Virginia and that was a big reason for why they were able to run out and stay up big on the Mountaineers. Last night's effort on the glass won't get it done against WVU.
Big picture, there is a lot to smile and gloat about from this one. The test will be on Monday as Bob Huggins comes calling. We all know what West Virginia brings to the table. The good news for the Zags is that they won't get rattled by the name on the jersey or the coach on the sideline. This is a team that is just months removed from demolishing West Virginia in their backyard.