November 19, 2013

Game Preview: Gonzaga Bulldogs vs Washington State Cougars

Bulldogs Vs Cougars = Hatfields and McCoys?  Not quite, but the rivalry is intense just the same!

USA Today Sports



Washington State Cougars, PAC 12 Conference
Record: 2-0 

Key stats for the game:

WSU:     PTS/GM: 73         FG% 39%             3PT-FG% 24%

Key stat to know:  WSU AST/GM: 11 while Averaging 22 made buckets a night, means 50% of their scoring from the floor is a result of one on one basketball or offensive rebounds.

GU:        PTS/GM: 91         FG% 55%             3PT-FG% 45%

Key stat to know:  GU Free throw Point % is 17% placing GU near the bottom of College BB, while WSU is near the top at 29.5% Zags must get to the line more.

Want to dig further? Check out: Stat sheet for the stat geek

Key players for this game:

WSU:  DaVonte Lacy:   MIN/GM: 31      PTS/GM: 24       STL/GM: 3

Lacey is a talented and tough-minded Guard who has a wicked first step and the ability to play super-glue, lock-down Defense.  If WSU hopes to win, let alone compete, Lacy will need to have a monster game.

GU:   Gary Bell JR:    MIN/GM:  28      PTS/GM:  17         FG%: 63%

Gary spent the off-season working on creating his own shot and being more aggressive in an effort to respond to the challenge the GU staff put to him at the end of last year.  Thus far, his hard work has shown as he is producing at a consistently high level on both ends of the court.

Game Preview:

On Thursday, Nov 21st the Zags will host their in state rivals, the WSU Cougars at the McCarthy Athletic Center, Spokane, WA.  Tip off will be 6:00 PM.  If you have been anywhere near this rivalry in the past 15+ years, you know that there is no love loss between these two teams.  Of course the level of competition has risen and fallen, mainly due to the up and down talent level on the side of WSU.  Be that as it may, the intensity brought by both the Bulldogs and Cougars is not diminished by what, at times, seems to be a large gap in talent or expectation between the two teams.  You can be sure that from the opening tip, the game will be an all out war for the full 40 minutes, regardless of the current roster of players, varying degrees of  talent, or even what the current score may happen to be. 

To find an example of this intense rivalry, we need look no further than to last years game at Beasley Coliseum, in which the Cougars hosted the AP top 10 Gonzaga Bulldogs team. Gonzaga was just coming off a four game stretch in which they won by an average margin of 26 points.  In addition, Kelly Olynyk was back in the lineup and showing the jump in skill and strength his RS season had afforded him.  It is safe to say, as a GU fan, you were quite optimistic, cautious but optimistic just the same.  As we all know, the game was a back and forth affair, in which both teams fought tooth and nail to claw out a victory at all costs.  I am sure if you were a Coug fan watching that game, it was a thrilling affair as your team played way above their head and fell just short of upsetting  one of the most cohesive and talented GU teams Mark Few ever has put on the floor.  In the end, however Gonzaga was able to escape with a 2 point win and the Cougars were left to lick their wounds and  wait until next year to get a crack at another ranked and talented GU team.

Ultimately, this game should come down to match ups, particularly in the back court.  In both cases, the Guards are talented and experienced, and as they perform, so should the fortunes of their team.  Gonzaga boast one of the best back courts in the country in Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos.  However, they add to this with the improved play of Senor, David Stockton, Kyle Dranginis and the addition of a very athletic, Gerard Coleman.  The GU back court is talented, tenured and deep enough to cause major issues for the Cougar guards as the game progresses.  Look for Pangos to continue to shoot the ball, assert himself in attacking the rim, and most importantly, get to the line.  Gary Bell Jr's improved play and assertive, attacking approach in taking what the defense gives him and exploiting this, will be key to breaking down WSU's defense and opening up opportunities for his teammates.

As for WSU, their guards are quick off the dribble and opportunistic when looking for their shots.  The Cougars will try to run their guards off screens to free them for the open shot, however they are just as likely to look to create off the dribble, attack the rim and get to the line.  Nearly 30% of their scoring is from the charity stripe.  Due to this, GU will need to ensure they have adapted to the new freedom of movement rules when guarding and ensure they employ active feet as opposed to active hands on defense.  In addition, WSU is not an exceptional rebounding team, however they historically crash the offensive boards with a vengeance and Thursday will be no different.  With WSU shooting only 39% from the field but hoisting up shots at the same pace as Gonzaga, there will be plenty of Windex needed to clean the glass by GU's big men.

All in all, this will be a hard fought war between two teams who may not hate each other but certainly dislike the other to a great extent.  Essentially, this is a very real and viable rivalry between two long standing institutions in the inland NW.  These two rarely disappoint when they clash on the hardwood and Thursday in Spokane, will be no exception!

My Prediction:

This will be a scrap fest, with GU's offensive firepower being too much for the Cougars to overcome.  Look for the Bulldogs to steadily build a lead in the first half and hold on to this through the second.  GU: 81  WSU 65

Enjoy the game!



quidveritas said...

There is no animosity between the players my friend. Fans will do what fans will do. This is a good series and good for both programs. Enjoy the backyard brawl for what it is.

WAZZU will play their best game and should make it a competitive contest. This game is not a gimmie. The Zags will need to play with intensity and skill to win this matchup.

Matt said...

I agree it is a good rivalry and very good for both teams.

Certainly not a gimmie for either. Looking forward to this one!