Friday, February 6, 2009

The Zags Roll

I stayed up very late last night to watch #18 Gonzaga vs. Portland on ESPN2. A very entertaining close first half slowly became a blowout in the second half as the Zags pulled away for a 93-78 win. Gonzaga looked absolutely terrific on both ends of the court in the second half shutting down the very offensively talented Pilots while torching them with 51 second half points.

The entire starting five for the Bulldogs scored in double figures led by Matt Bouldin's career high 26 points. The more I see of Bouldin, the more I see a future NBA star. Adrian Branch, the analyst working for ESPN said last night that Bouldin reminds him of Dan Majerle, who had a very successful career in the NBA. And the more I remember Majerle, the more Branch is right. Bouldin has a solid NBA physique (6 foot 5 220 pounds) can shoot the three (three of four from beyond the arc), drive the lane, can pass (8 assists last night) and is not afraid to draw contact and go to the line (7 of 8 free throws last night). Jeremy Pargo (22 points) gets most of the publicity, but Bouldin I think might be the best player. He is quick enough and certainly big enough to play the two and solid enough to play the three.

Portland by the way is a good team. They played a very good first half and were up at halftime 43-42. They also shot 43 percent from the field (including 11 of 26 from three), which is impressive since Gonzaga leads the nation in FG percentage defense at 36.2 percent. With the Pilots, it's like going back in a time warp and watching some of Rick Majerus' Utah teams. A lot of size, a lot of shooting ability with a good offensive scheme. Plus, there is some basketball history on Portland. First, the Pilots' best player Nik Raivio, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, should be familiar to mid major basketball fans. He is the brother of Derek Raivio, who starred at Gonzaga. Their dad Rick is the all time Portland scoring leader. And then there is Luke Sikma, son of Seattle Supersonic NBA star Jack Sikma, one of Anthony Terentieff's all time favorite players. Luke had 10 points and 5 rebounds for the Pilots.

As I noted the Bulldogs clamped down on the Pilots by switching to a zone in the second half and forced several Pilots' turnovers (actually both teams were pretty solid on the assist to turnover ratio - Gonzaga 14-7, Portland 17-10). Also the Zags shot the lights out shooting 53 percent on the game, including 8 of 16 from beyond the arc and 23 of 31 from the line. If the Gonzaga continues to get balanced scoring last night and they get Robert Sacre back from his foot injury to add a little toughness, the Zags will be hard to beat come tournament time.

Also last night #11 Butler and #22 Utah State both won their games. Butler held off Detroit 66-61. Meanwhile Utah State had another 50 percent shooting night from the field and from beyond the arc, ho hum, beating New Mexico State 78-59. It was a very good night for ranked mid major teams.

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