In a non-competitive game that could double as the post-season banquet’s highlight reel, Gonzaga got what they needed against a grossly outmatched NAIA Eastern Oregon squad. The starters got a good run, the second team played substantial minutes and everyone will enter WCC play on an extremely high note.
1. If anyone needed a huge confidence boost last night, it had to be Efton Reid. In the Zags last 10 games, he’s played a total of 23 minutes. Even if the competition was substandard. his 8 for 8 from the field in 19 minutes play was impressive. Richard Fox correctly pointed out his baseline hook shot would have been effective regardless of who was guarding him. His one foul is also a noteworthy accomplishment considering he’s been averaging 12.8 fouls per 40 minutes this season.
2. In the same vein, Dom Harris was outstanding and his performance will no doubt continue to fuel controversy about his lack of playing time. He had three assists in his first couple of minutes of play, five total, three rebounds, a steal, a block and hit a three. We all know about Few’s strict rotations, but he usually rewards good play with minutes. I just don’t see Few ever going 10 deep, but hopefully Harris and Reid see the floor more often during WCC play.
3. Hunter Sallis had two offensive plays in 31 seconds last night demonstrating his lottery-pick potential. At about eight-minute mark in the first half, he swished a three-pointer on a kick-out from Gregg eliciting comments from Dickau on the smoothness and improvement of his jumper. On the next possession, he fielded a pass from HIckman within eight-feet of the basket while running at full speed. One step later, a tomahawk dunk causing an enthusiasm eruption from the broadcast crew.
4. After some shaky games early in the season, Malachi Smith is much more comfortable and productive in his role as a super-sub. After scoring 3 points against Purdue and Kent State and goose eggs against Xavier and Washington, this was his fourth straight game with double digit scoring while also filling the stat sheet with rebounds, steals and/or assists. He’s averaging 23 minutes in those last four contests shooting 60% from the field and 64% from deep.
5. Speaking of quality 3-point shooting Hickman drained two, smooth, seemingly effortless treys mid-way in last night’s first half on three attempts. His single turnover was his first in four games, 98 minutes of play, on a pass to Reid I thought Efton could have caught. Nolan is just so unflappable, he epitomizes the adage of be quick but don’t hurry.
6. I promise I wrote this down before it was mentioned by our intrepid broadcast crew, but last night’s high-low game between Timme and Watson was probably the best I’ve seen all season. It probably didn’t hurt that the biggest guy Eastern Oregon started was 6’ 6”, but it’s great to see the high/low clicking again. Of course, the Holmgren/Timme combo is a tough act to follow but Watson and Timme have four years of practice together and make it look so good when they run it right.
7. Rasir Bolton made some progress last night in his struggle to return to form. He was only 1 for 4 from deep, but he did have three occasions of being “lightning”, the fastest guy on the court when attacking the rim. One possession resulted in a lay-up, one on two-made free throws and the third with a high-flying dunk. It feels like he’ll need a hot shooting night from beyond the arc to fully return to form. After shooting 45% from deep in the first nine games, he’s shot 19% over the last five.
8. I mentioned this in the game summary, but in the first half Gonzaga shot 75% from the field, 62.5% from deep and 55% from the line. I always find it bizarre when the lowest of the three major shooting percentages is free throws. After a rough first two games, GU shot an impressive 79% from the line over the next 10 contests. Tonight’s (64%) and the Montana game (69%) weren’t so good, but when I looked it up, I was surprised how well Gonzaga had been shooting from the stripe this season.
9. Last night’s contest was the biggest margin of victory in Gonzaga Men’s basketball history, the program’s first 70+ point win. The previous record was the 61-point victory over Denver three years ago. It’s presumptuous to put too much importance on this victory but it does feel like the culmination of a steady and consistent team improvement since the Purdue loss.
10. With Braden Huff not seeing the floor and Kaden Perry and Joe Few not dressing, it appears pretty certain all three (along with Kellen Mitchell) will be redshirting this season. Colby Brooks played less than four minutes but had a dunk, a three, an offensive rebound put-back, two other rebounds, a steal (and almost another). His obvious talent and his three remaining years of eligibility make him an attractive transfer prospect. Finally, anyone else catch the Zag bench doing arm flaps and other bird-like gestures when Abe Eagle made his first GU basket?
10.5 Great article in last night’s Spokesman-Review:
It’s about Eastern Oregon’s Spokane-native Justin Jeske, the 6’ 4” guard who had to match up against Drew Timme and Anton Watson most of the game. The article also mentions the troubles some players had returning home from Christmas break.