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A Gift for Gonzaga

January 6, 2003 Columns No Comments



A Gift for Gonzaga

by Jed Tai

It was about time for a breather for Gonzaga.

When you’re traveling across the country racking up frequent flyer miles playing one of the toughest non-conference slates in the country, there’s hardly any time to catch any rest.

As Gonzaga has stepped up on the national scene in recent years, their schedule has as well. The Bulldogs have not only played the likes of Utah, Indiana, and Kentucky in the Maui Invitational, but have also faced tough tasks on the road at Stanford and Georgia (in the Peach Bowl Classic in Atlanta). Even some of their home games so far have been tough – Eastern Washington and St. Joseph’s proved to be all the Zags could handle, even in the comfort of the Kennel. Because of their schedule, the Zags took some lumps, dropped out of the polls, and whispers even started that an NCAA Tournament bid was no longer a given.

Clearly, the team needed a break. What could give Mark Few and his weary troops this?

How about an easy win? Facing a rebuilding and injury decimated team in Portland State on Thursday night was just what Gonzaga needed, as the Zags cruised by the Vikings, 87-49, in a game played at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. It was a game that was every bit a wipeout as the score indicates.

Already more talented, deeper, and bigger than the Vikings, the Zags had even more of an advantage as three of PSU’s top four players were out due to injury (Seamus Boxley – wrist, Marshall Hartman – knee) or suspension (Seth Scott). Gonzaga certainly would take advantage of this from the get-go. Going straight to their advantage in the paint, the Zags pounded the ball inside to forwards Richard Fox, Cory Violette, and Ronny Turiaf, none of whom could be stopped by the Vikings’ smaller, less-experienced post men. Defensively, Gonzaga took advantage of PSU’s inexperienced ballhandlers, forcing turnover after turnover with their full court zone press. The Vikings simply weren’t allowed to get into any offensive flow, and the game was essentially over at halftime, with Gonzaga up by a 42-17 margin.

Even with the large lead, the run wouldn’t stop in the second half as Gonzaga continued to pile on the points, while PSU continued to struggle. Even though Mark Few would call off the press, the Vikings continued their ineptness on offense, missing their first seven shots of the half and committing four turnovers before they finally scratched on the scoreboard. By game’s end, Few’s team had rolled to a much needed easy victory. Three Zags scored in double figures, led by sophomore forward Ronny Turiaf with 18 points in only 18 minutes.

The blowout allowed Few to give his deep reserves some extended playing time they hadn’t seen all year. Freshman forward Tyler Amaya set career highs in scoring and rebounding with seven points and five rebounds in 16 minutes, while freshman guard Colin Floyd scored his first career points on three free throws. Sophomore guard Brian Michaelson, who attended Jesuit High School in Portland, also scored a basket in his homecoming. Every player who dressed for the Zags scored, and all but one played double digit minutes.

“The one negative thing about our schedule is that it hasn’t allowed us to play some kids that deserve to play like Michaelson and Floyd,” said Gonzaga head coach Mark Few. “These kids bust their butt in practice.”

The game was also a chance for the Zags to play in front of many of their growing number of fans away from Spokane. Although it was a home game for Portland State, the crowd was filled with many wearing the red and blue of Gonzaga. The contest allowed Mark Few and his staff to give Gonzaga continued visibility in the Portland/Vancouver area, a growing hotbed of talent where the school maintains a strong presence.

“We’ve had good success recruiting here,” said Few, noting former and current Zags from the Portland/Vancouver area such as Matt Santangelo, Richie Frahm, Dan Dickau, Zach Gourde, and recent signee Derek Raivio (who Few already considers part of the Gonzaga family). “They’re well-coached kids.”

For Portland State, they now enter conference play ready to start anew. Throughout all the struggles so far, the Vikings players who have stuck with the program have stayed positive, worked hard, and given 100 percent on the court. Against Gonzaga, Portland State fought hard and despite their size deficiencies inside, ended the game almost even with the Bulldogs on the glass, with 33 rebounds to the Zags’ 34. Senior guard Jeb Ivey turned in his usual warrior-like performance, leading the way with 13 points, and fellow senior guard Kevin Briggs chipped in with 12.

PSU now looks forwards to hosting Sacramento State at their regular home at the Stott Center on Tuesday in their Big Sky opener. While they will still be without forwards Boxley and Hartman (both of whom may end up redshirting), Scott should be back after his one-game suspension. While their current record may be an ugly 2-10, their Big Sky record is still an unblemished 0-0.

Ducks and Beavers Hit Conference Play

The Pac-10 conference season has started in full force, and Oregon and Oregon State faced their counterparts from Arizona on Thursday and Saturday at home.

The game of the week – and likely the year – in the Pac-10 was played on Thursday, as Oregon faced off against Arizona in a contest that lived up to all the hype (although it’s been well-noted it wasn’t nationally televised, so most of the country didn’t get to see it). Oregon played well early, and took a lead as large as 11 points in the second half on a three-pointer by Luke Ridnour with 14:32 remaining. But Arizona senior guard Jason Gardner wouldn’t be denied his first-ever win in McArthur Court, hitting consecutive threes to get the Wildcats back into the game, and then helping lead the charge as Lute Olson’s squad came back to win. The game snapped a 23 game home winning streak for Oregon, as Arizona’s huge advantage on the boards (a 50-28 margin) was probably the difference in the end.

The Ducks needed to rebound in a big way – literally and figuratively – on Saturday against Arizona State, and they did, with a 94-73 victory and a six rebound advantage (33-27). The score, however, doesn’t indicate some of the struggles they had along the way, as it wasn’t until a 25-2 run in the second half did Oregon finally shake off the Sun Devils. As usual, the Lukes led the way, but the Ducks also got some big play off the bench from the likes of Andre Joseph, Jay Anderson, and Matt Short – something they will need on a consistent basis if they hope to get Arizona back in Tucson later this year. With the win, Ernie Kent and the gang finished off the week with a 1-1 record, which was unfortunately one less win than they wanted going into it.

Meanwhile, up the road in Corvallis, Oregon State wanted to prove that their nice 7-2 record wasn’t just a product of beating up on cupcakes, and a nice showing against the two Arizona schools would certainly go a long ways in doing that. Unfortunately, it was instead a rough start to their conference season. Thursday’s game against Arizona State would have been a great chance to show that the Beavers were for real – the game the nation would see instead of the Oregon/Arizona affair. But it was not meant to be as the Sun Devils wore out Oregon State on defense and on the glass, outrebounding the Beavers by 15 and forcing them into 33.3 percent shooting for the game in a 67-47 victory.

Saturday’s game against Arizona wouldn’t be any easier for Jay John, as not only would the opposition be tougher, but John would be facing the team and coach he worked for prior to taking the OSU job. And, as usually is the case in the teacher versus pupil matchup in the first go-around, the teacher won out – and in a big way. OSU hung tough with the Wildcats in the early going behind Philip Ricci, but quickly ran out of gas as Arizona cruised to a 80-65 win. There was a silver lining in the loss for Oregon State, however, as a gem may have been found in forward David Lucas, who had been seldom used thus far this season. In 19 minutes against Arizona, the son of former NBA star Maurice Lucas put up 12 points, and with his inspired play, may have earned himself a spot in John’s rotation going on forward.

Both teams head down to Northern California this week to take on Stanford and Cal in their Pac-10 tilts on Thursday and Saturday.

Pilots Prepping for Pepperdine

Last we checked on Michael Holton and his Portland Pilots, they were in the middle of the tough part of their non-conference schedule, a disappointing home loss to Oregon State. It was the second of five straight losses the Pilots would suffer, including a 38 point blowout to UCLA in Holton’s return to Westwood.

However, as of late the Pilots had found a hot streak. UP beat Portland State in the second game of the RiverCity Rivalry, sweeping the series 2-0. A home win against Northern Arizona followed, as well as a hard-earned victory at Long Beach State. A tough loss to Eastern Washington on Saturday stopped the streak, and Portland goes to Montana State on Monday to finish off their non-league schedule.

Junior guard Casey Frandsen continues to be the team’s top gun, but Holton has gotten good production out of two freshmen, swingman Donald Wilson and freshman point guard Eugene “Pooh” Jeter. Both will be very important if the team is to do some surprising in the WCC. Their first chance will come against Pepperdine at the Chiles Center on Thursday.

     

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