Familiar foes collide in Spokane this evening, ranked Gonzaga Off Marathon.
Mark Few's Bulldogs opened the season on Friday, with a hard-fought 77-69 victory over Eastern Washington. The game marked the 400th for Few at the school and he currently has a 317-83 record in Spokane. Few has built a powerhouse in the Pacific Northwest, as Gonzaga, under his leadership, has never won fewer than 20 games, including the team's 25-10 mark a year ago.
Last season Ken Bone led the Cougars to the postseason NIT in just his second season at the helm. Washington State set a school record with three postseason victories, advancing to the NIT semifinals in New York. However, matching that feat in 2011-12 may be difficult now that All-American Klay Thompson has moved on.
These two teams are meeting for the 146th time. Washington State holds a 98-47 lead and has won the last two meetings, including an 81-59 rout in Pullman last season.
The Cougars are prepared for life after Thompson, as the star player was a lottery pick in the most recent NBA Draft. Thompson poured in 21.6 ppg last season and contributed in all other aspects of the game as well, so he will undoubtedly be missed. DeAngelo Casto (12.0 ppg) has moved on as well, leaving players like Faisal Aden and Reggie Moore to pick up the slack. Aden netted 12.7 ppg in 2010-11, and he figures to log more minutes this season, leading to a higher output. As for Moore, he scored just 9.1 ppg last season on 35.2 percent shooting from the field, That effort as a sophomore fell short of Moore's freshman campaign when he netted 12.7 ppg to go along with 4.2 apg. Washington State doesn't have the offensive firepower of a year ago, but the hope is that newcomers like junior Mike Ladd (Fresno State transfer) and freshman Davonte' Lacey (6-3, 206) can provide some immediate relief.
The Bulldogs made things harder on themselves than they had too, shooting a mere 37.3 percent from the floor overall, including just 29.2 percent in the second half (7-of-24) in a season-opening win against Eastern Washington. Center Robert Sacre had a strong game, posting a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Marquise Carter added 17 points, followed by forward Elias Harris and guard Kevin Pangos, who delivered 16 and 11 points, respectively. Gonzaga dominated the boards, outrebounding the Eagles 50-29, while outscoring ESU at the free-throw line, 36-10. Sacre and Carter were particularly productive at the charity stripe, converting 26-of-36 opportunities. The Zips will certainly have better days shooting the basketball, but if they can be consistent on the glass and get to the free throw line with frequency, any shooting woes will have minimal effect on the outcome of the game.