Where else can you start besides with Josh Heytvelt. The big man from Clarkston, Washington was fantastic. Heytvelt played only 14 minutes tonight but he made it count. He finished the game with 18 points and only missed on two of his ten attempts. Many Gonzaga fans questioned whether or not we would ever see the same player that we saw in his sophomore season but I think it's now safe to say that he is back. He played with an edge and great enthusiasm and meshed very well with the rest of the team. If Josh continues to play at this level, he has to be one of the top stories in the NCAA this year. Just think of the things he has gone through in the past few years. After the foot problems and the incident in Cheney, many wrote him off but he's the key for Gonzaga's success this year and I think he'll embrace that role very well.
How good did Micah Downs look tonight? The senior wing from Kirkland has come to exemplify everything it means to be a Gonzaga athlete. The passion he played with tonight made it feel like the Zags were playing St. Mary's or San Diego. He connected on half of his three point attempts and finished the game with 12 points in only 21 minutes. Downs established himself as the best defensive player on the team as he had three steals. Along with Heytvelt, Downs is also a great story for Gonzaga. Many did not know how Downs would fit in with the team after transferring from Kansas but his presence has been nothing short of phenomenal.
The guard play for Gonzaga was everything you could have hoped for. Jeremy Pargo saw little action but ran a great game at the point guard spot. He finished with 6 points on 3-4 shooting. The best part for Pargo is that he is becoming an assist machine. He had six assists and had some outstanding looks. Matt Bouldin only played 20 minutes but looked very good as well. He finished with 8 points but was hitting the outside shot with ease. The best thing about Pargo and Bouldin's game was that they did not force anything. The Zags got in trouble last season when these two forced the action but tonight they let the game come to them and found the play makers. If this continues, the sky is the limit. Steven Gray's three point shot was a little bit off and he never seemed to really settle in but he didn't do anything to hurt the team. He is becoming the best perimeter defender for Gonzaga. Demetri Goodson is everything as advertised. The only reason he has to slow down is so that the rest of the team can catch up with him. Meech led the team in minutes played with 25 and looked great. He finished with five points and three assists. He is going to be a great change of pace point guard for Gonzaga. He is the quickest player on the team and I think broke at least four Wayne State players' ankles. Grant Gibbs was solid. He played 19 minutes in the game and connected on two free throws. He really surprises you with his size and does not act like a freshman on the court. He plays with a major chip on his shoulder and is not afraid to get on the floor. I think he is going to be an outstanding player for Mark Few in a couple of years.
There is no doubt that the biggest question mark coming into the game for Gonzaga was the front court play. I've already talked about Josh Heytvelt (but I could talk about him for many many days). If your a Zag fan you have to be impressed and relieved by Andy Poling. He was surrounded by question marks when he arrived in Spokane and popular opinion had him tabbed for a red shirt but after this game, you have to wonder what the future holds for Poling. He has amazing skill down low, connecting on two of his three shots, and finished with 7 points. He has soft hands was very comfortable running the offense. I do believe that he should redshirt this season because his value in the future will be huge. Will Foster was serviceable down low. He only played 11 minutes but attempted 8 shots. He hit half of his attempts and I loved the fire he played with. You can really tell that he wants to be a huge part of the team this season. He wound with 9 points and 4 boards on the game. I'm really looking forward to what he has to offer this season. Austin Daye and Ira Brown proved a lot tonight. Austin silenced all the critics saying that his injury would affect him this year and Ira was a beast in the post. Daye had to be a contender for player of the game with his 14 points. He was amazing in the first half and nailed 5 out of his 7 attempts. The knee did not affect his play whatsoever. He was able to cut with ease and showed that he is going to be a top player this year. Ira Brown finished with 9 boards and 8 points and showed that he can be a stud in the post.
It's hard to be completely giddy about the 2008-09 Zags. There are a few things we can definitely pull from this game however.
- Josh Heytvelt's post game his back. It was Wayne State but his shooting around the basket was great. His use of the glass was beautiful.
- Austin Daye's knee is fine and he looks poised for a great year.
- The freshman are playing very well and should be great Zags for the next four years.
- Remember the Ira Brown comparisons to PJ Tucker? His offensive game is not at that level yet but Ira will be able to eat up some quality minutes at the post.