With the news coming down earlier today that Gary Bell would be out for the next 4-6 weeks, there was some obvious anxiousness among the Gonzaga fanbase. Bell joined fellow starter Sam Dower on the sideline and just like that, the Zags were without a couple guys that combined for 26 points and 10 rebounds per game. Not only that, but star point guard Kevin Pangos has been battling a nagging toe injury that has held him out of a number of practices. Tonight, however, against the Dons of San Francisco, Gonzaga employed the 'next man up' strategy to perfection and waxed the Dons by a score of 69-41.
It is a massive cliche but tonight's effort was a completely perfect team effort from Gonzaga. Early on it was David Stockton and Przemek Karnowski that paced the Zags but then at the twelve-minute mark, it was the Big East transfer duo that shined for the Bulldogs. From the 12 minute mark until about 7 minutes, Angel Nunez and Gerard Coleman were the only two Zags to score and they showed all of Spokane just how special they can be. They duo combined for 8 points during that stretch, 6 of that by Coleman and Nunez added a couple boards and big blocked shot. That run expanded the Zags led to nine and they never looked back.
Following Nunez and Coleman's mini-run, it was Kevin Pangos and Drew Barham that delivered the early knock out punch as they combined to hit four three-point shots down the stretch in the first half. At the break, the Zags held a 41-23 lead and for all intents and purposes, it was over. In the second half, it was a whole lot of Barham and Karnowski early as Drew hit several three-pointers in the first few minutes of the half and Karnowski added a couple of post conversions. Barham finished with 15 points, all coming on three point attempts and nine boards.
While the offense was its usual solid self without Dower and Bell, it was the defense that really shined. The Dons made just 13 field goal attempts this evening for a woeful 25.5% shooting percentage. Gonzaga used the length of Coleman and Nunez to fluster the Dons in the first half and in the post, both Ryan Edwards and Karnowski were stout. David Stockon was his usual pesky self and forced some turnovers and caused even more headaches for USF.
Considering that the Zags had less than a day to react to the Gary Bell news and were still without Sam Dower, I don't think any sane fan could have asked for much more. It will be very intriguing to see, if Dower is still unavailable, if the staff shows as much faith in Angel Nunez who got plenty of time in the first half of tonight's game. He used his time very wisely as he filled up the stat sheet and showed great confidence. He adds a great element of length that will be necessary against the Gaels on Thursday.