Gonzaga's scoring total per game has come a little bit down to Earth after opening the season scoring 100 points on Bryant. Against a more stiff test against Oakland on Sunday, the Bulldogs still thrived offensively spurred by Kevin Pangos 21 point outburst.
The Gonzaga offense is rolling on all cylinders at the start of this season. The team averages 91.7 points per game, good for 20th in the nation. As a team, the Zags are shooting an astounding 55 percent from the floor, good for fifth in the nation. They are sharing the wealth in the process. With each new game it seems to be a new player to step up and lead, starting with Gerard Coleman, moving to Gary Bell and settling with Pangos. All the while, Sam Dower has been averaging a quiet 14.7 points and 10.3 rebounds through the first three games of the season.
Meet the opponent
Washington State Cougars (2-0), Kenpom 109, RPI 60
Things weren't looking so hot for the Cougars at the start of the season. They were thoroughly voted at the bottom of the Pac-12 by members of the media after the team two of their three most productive players last season. Gone are Brock Motum and Mike Ladd, and this is now Royce Woolridge's and DaVonte Lacy's team. There was a bit of drama over the offseason as junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn was suspended and subsequently left the school. He was expected to be a big member of the backcourt for the Cougars.
The Cougars themselves suvrived a scare against Cal State Bakersfield to open the season, and it wasn't exactly the start that most Cougs were expecting. The team got a bit better on Sunday, defeating Lamar by 20 points. Lacy has jumped out of the gates at the start of the season, averaging 24.5 points to lead the Cougars.
After Lacy, so far the offense has stalled a bit, and this was one of the big questions for the Cougars going into the season -- who was going to replace Motums offense? Lacy has stepped up and Ike Iroegbu is putting up some efficient numbers. Woolridge is struggling so far, shooting 28 percent from the floor in numbers that are a bit showing of the team's overall struggles from the floor. The Cougars are shooting a shade under 40 percent from the floor and are just 24 percent from beyond the arc.
What to watch out for
The Cougars main two scoring threats are both guards, and it will be another solid test for Gonzaga to see how they are able to silence Lacy. Lacy is like Travis Bader from Oakland, a high volume three-point shooter. It is tough to say if the first two games are how his style will be for the rest of the season (Lacy is averaging twice as many three point shots than any other year). Either way, both Lacy and Woolridge are dangerous scorers that will stretch the Bulldog's perimeter defense, and how the guards respond will largely determine the score.
Sam Dower by all accounts should have a monster game against the Cougars. Washington State is one of the few teams who are somehow more thin than Gonzaga in the frontcourt. Senior forward D.J. Shelton is the only Cougars of size that sees meaningful minutes. Outside of him, coach Ken Bone operates with a smaller lineup that compliments Shelton with plenty of wingmen. Dower, rather quietly, has been one of the best players on the team through the first three games. It is time for his picture to be on the game recap.
Until Angel Nunez is ready, Few appears to be content with operating with an eight man rotation. It doesn't leave a lot of room for error for the starters, but it also means that the starters see a lot of time on the court. Four of the five starters against Oakland played 30 minutes or more, and although Stockton appeared to be a surprise starter at the beginning of the season his scrappy play is earning him minutes. Gerard Coleman had a team-low 13 minutes against Oakland on Sunday and he needs to make sure he stays in Few's line of sight. Players have a bizarre tendency to disappear from Few's consciousness and get buried in the bench. Coleman is too good of a player to have that happen, and he needs to make the most of his minutes against the Cougars.
This game has a chance to be close, solely because the two teams have played each other consistently for such a long time. The Zags have won three out of the past four, but the Bulldogs have beat the Cougars by an average of five points. The last time the Cougars won -- remember? Probably not, it was one of those wash the memory away games in 2010 where the Cougars won by 22.