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Graham Ike Bulldozes His Way Over USF, 77-72

Continue to be a bully, young bull.

NCAA Basketball: San Francisco at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga (14-5, 5-1) should never allow such a long stretch of games at home without the students and the band present. It was an incredible atmosphere in the Kennel and Nolan Hickman noticed the difference.

This was ugly and sloppy basketball for most of the game. The Zags started out shooting 4-17 from the field and their 30 points in the first half was also the lowest-scoring first half of the season. I would be even more frustrated by the lack thereof a shooting performance at all the different levels from Gonzaga if USF (15-6, 4-2) wasn’t in the same boat. It was as dry as the Sahara out there.

Part of the reason for the unattractive basketball was because the refs were not letting these guys play at all. 25 fouls for USF and 14 for Gonzaga. It seemed like teams couldn’t get in a rhythm going with all the whistles and questionable calls almost every possession down.

When the team was in a rhythm, it was mostly when Ryan Nembhard (13 points on 4-8 FG and 1-3 3PT, 6 assists, 2 steals) was leading the break. 20 fast break points were in thanks to the lead guard’s pushing of the pace. He may have committed his first turnover in four games but he was throwing some absolute dimes out there. When Nembhard plays under control and relaxed, he sees everyone on the court more clearly.

Basketball is simply a game of runs. Whenever Gonzaga had an offensive stretch, USF come back with an answer all night long. The key to the Zags coming out on top in the end was the 19 points off the 15 turnovers from the Dons.

Graham Ike (22 points on 6-10 FG, 7 rebounds, 1 block) needs to continue to be more assertive like he was in the second half. When he was forcing himself deep in the paint, he was drawing fouls. Ike’s consistency at the free throw line was monumental in Gonzaga’s victory. 10-11 FT (90.9 FT%) compared to the rest of his team who went 12-23 FT (52.1 FT%). Practice your free throws, practice your free throws, practice your free throws.

Ike did an especially great job defensively when he was guarding USF’s Johnathan Mogbo (8 points on 4-6 FG, 11 rebounds, 4 assists). I was just as confused as Flemming and Farnham were, Mogbo didn’t show as much of the aggressiveness that we’re used to from him. I wonder if the insane atmosphere in the Kennel got to him or it has to do with his conditioning?

Cant forget a mention of Anton Watson (15 points on 6-8 FG, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block). He’s one of the most versatile players you’ll find in the country and he showed it again against USF. When Watson has the hot hand, feed the beast. He can take over games on his own and has been the most valuable piece the Zags have this season.

USF has now lost 28 straight against Gonzaga (last win coming in February of 2012) and haven’t won in Spokane since 1989. A real one-sided rivalry. The Zags jump on a plane now heading to Stockton to face off against the worst team in the West Coast Conference. 7 PM PT on ESPN+ on Saturday.

Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho