First of all, if you are reading this blog and are wondering "hey, do these guys know what they are talking about?" Just check out EDZ's score prediction in his preview. A late Andy Poling field goal with less than a minute gave the Zags a 90-55 victory tonight over the Mastodons of IPFW. Four Bulldogs scored in double figures for Mark Few this evening including a career night for Demetri Goodson. Meech was 6-7 from the field and finished with a great 14 point effort. Unofficially he had four turnovers but countered that with four steals and two assists. He really penetrated well and took every lane that IPFW gave him.
Joining Meech in double figures was Matt Bouldin, Robert Sacre, and Steven Gray. Overall it was a much tighter shooting performance for this team. IPFW never really challenged the Zags as they shot 63% from the floor. In fact, the entire starting lineup only missed ten shots all evening. The problem with the starters was ball handling as they combined for 14 turnovers in this game. A lot of this can be attributed to playing down a stroke to IPFW's level but there's no doubt that the guys have to clean it up. Eight turnovers by Meech and Bouldin isn't going to cut it. Another nasty stat was the free throw shooting. The Bulldogs went 18-34 from the line, an obviously glaring issue. For what it's worth, many of those misses came late in the game. Redshirt freshmen Grant Gibbs and Andy Poling gave us a small glimpse at why they maybe aren't playing more as they missed eight combined free throws late in the game.
Ok, ok, now on to the real story. Bol Kong and his merry bench players. The bench played pretty well in my estimation this evening. The much anticipated arrival of Bol Kong finally took place this evening and how did he respond? By knocking down two straight three's. Make no mistake, you can see where Bol needs to improve. His foot speed on defense is slow and he will be a big liability there but when he crosses to that offensive side of the court it really slows down for him. He didn't really press and made some nice plays. He missed three shots but connected on both of his free throws and looked like he belonged out there. Kong's nice night was supplemented by the nice showings from G.J. Vilarino, Mangisto Arop, and Kelly Olynyk. G.J. played 16 minutes and connected on 3-4 shots for six points. He had a beautiful drive to hoop finished off by a scoop shot for an amazing deuce. Mangisto Arop delivered a great line tonight. In 13 minutes, Manny didn't attempt a shot, collected six rebounds, and had some nice assists. Kelly Olynyk finished off the trio's nice night. He played 15 minutes, scoring six points, and grabbing five boards. His foot speed and athleticism will be really tested in Maui but his offensive ability seems to be developing nicely.
continue reading after the jump for more postgame reactions...
I was happy to see Mark Few work with the four guard lineup. I feel like with the depth at the guard positions, he has to find some kind of way to get Mangisto Arop on the court more. Especially with Elias Harris and Robert Sacre's foul trouble, this could be a real asset. We saw Kelly Olynyk become the center of this lineup but obviously Rob or Elias are interchangeable in it. I imagine we will see this a lot against Colorado as they are one of the smallest "BCS" teams in the country. Many people worry about this lineup because it would obviously put us at a rebounding disadvantage but I'm confident that as long as Manny Arop is involved, the team won't suffer on the boards.
All in all, you couldn't have asked for much more before Maui. There aren't many questions left to be answered with this team when you consider the fact that there is so much youth. The rotation is set, the starters are shooting the ball at a nice clip and the bench seems to be very confident and ready to go. My main point of curiosity now is a simple wondering of what Mark Few does next with Bol. Was this an isolated glimpse for Coach Few to say "see, look what you can do if you work harder" or is this an indication that he is ready to go under the bright lights. Obviously guys like Kelly, G.J., and Manny will still be ahead in the rotation but he gives a nice option for someone who can set up and shoot. If nothing else it's just an amazing story that has finally come true for Bol. I'm sure he always imagined connecting on his first real shot on US soil so it was neat to see it come together like that.
Bring on the Buffs! Gonzaga now will probably be on the first flight out to Maui tomorrow to prepare for the EA Sports Maui Invitational. First game will be Monday at Noon against the Buffaloes of Colorado.