Well, this game did not go quite as most expected. Gonzaga prevailed 76-57, but the score does not explain how the game went.
The first half was quite a doozie for Gonzaga. SE Louisiana had a plan from the start and they executed to near perfection in the first half. The Lions held the ball for the vast majority of the shot clock and then would shoot with about 2-3 seconds left. Almost everything was falling for the Lions in the first half. It seemed like they could not miss. Even low percentage shots where the shooter was out of control were swishing through the net. On the defensive end, the Lions dominated in the first half. Their game plan could only work if they could make shots and hold a lead, or at least keep the score very close. They did this well and the Lions lead at halftime 33-32.
Dec 2, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Domantas Sabonis (11) shoots the ball as Southeastern Louisiana Lions guard Andrew Guillory (15) defends during the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center. The Bulldogs won 76-57. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
I was never really worried as it seemed like Gonzaga would make a run at some point and take over the game. That’s exactly what happened in the second half. More shots were falling for the Zags, they played a little better defense, and the Lions ran out of luck. Gonzaga forward, Kyle Wiltjer stepped up and had a game high 20 points along with 5 rebounds. Center, Przemek Karnowski lead all players in rebounds with 9. He also added 8 points. Off the bench, Domantas Sabonis added 14 points on 6-6 shooting. This is his second consecutive game shooting 100% from the field. He currently leads the WCC in shooting percentage at 79.5%.
This game showed how important it is for Gonzaga not to overlook any opponent. It was apparent that the Zags were the better team throughout, but they played down to their opponent, like they often do, against the Lions.
I do not mean to discredit the Lions. They have some talented players on their team including Devonte Upson who had 12 points and 8 boards as well as Zay Jackson and Joshua Fillmore. The Lions have attitude as well.
An ongoing concern for the Bulldogs is foul trouble. Sabonis reached 4 fouls in this game. He is far less effective when he is in foul trouble. It is difficult for him to figure out how physical he can be down low with the inconsistent refereeing that he has faced. I expect this to improve over time.
My favorite stat of the game was Gonzaga’s free throw percentage. The Zags shot 100% going 7-7! Finally!! I hope this is a trend that continues.
Gonzaga looks to take on Arizona on Saturday, December 6 at 2:15 p.m. PT.