If I was to tell you that Andrew Sorenson would play in this year's Washington State-Gonzaga game...would you believe me?
Every now and then a game comes along that is absolutely poetic. I know, I know, I wrote that this was just another silly PAC-10 team thinking Gonzaga was inferior but there is some pride in beating the Cougs, a team that took away plenty of happiness during my last two years of college.
Heading into this game, Gonzaga fans heard all the same BS. Can Gonzaga play a slow game? Do they really want to be defended? Blah, blah, blah. Your answer came tonight in an absolute laugher of a game in Pullman, Washington.
Give some credit to the Cougs that showed up in the first half tonight, who now are 1-73 against Top 5 opposition. They gave it their all and capitalized on sloppy fouls by Gonzaga. Believe it or not, this game was 32-29 at halftime. I'm really going to try and focus on the second half during this game but I guess I do have to address the sloppy play in the first half. Gonzaga looked flustered to say the least. They weren't shooting well and they were accumulating fouls very quickly. Josh Heytvelt, Rob Sacre, and Ira Brown had two fouls at halftime. Micah Downs had three. Everything looked bad for Gonzaga and it appeared as though this game was headed to another 51-47 game.
Suddenly, the Zags snapped out of it and realized that Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and the Cougs of last year are no more.
How can I go about explaining the second half? Absolute...perfection. Gonzaga came out fast and shoved the slow pace in the Cougars face. Micah Downs and Steven Gray were outstanding on the press against Wazzu, forcing one 10 second call and numerous amounts of Cougar turnovers. Washington State didn't help their cause at all. Any Cougar fan would agree with me in saying that they just looked flat out bad. I've never seen Taylor Rochestie play so poorly, but this has become an alarming trend for Washington State fans because he is a key player if they are going to have any shot at a tournament bid. Super frosh Klay Thompson looked scared and senior big man Aron Baynes was perfect from the field...but never really established himself as a major threat and finished with 10 points. The most efficient player for the Cougs probably wound up being Caleb Forrest who ended up with 9 points.
Now on to the winning team. Gonzaga was paced by its leaders. Josh Heytvelt was absolutely outstanding, Jeremy Pargo led this team beautifully, and Austin Daye rebounded from a tough start to finish very well. Congrats to Mr. Pargo as well, the official stats have not been released but I believe that he had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists. He had a very Pargo-esque stat line shooting 5-7 from the floor. Not forcing anything, but still directing this team to success. What can you say about Josh Heytvelt? You would be hard pressed to find a player that has come back from more adversity than Mr. Heytvelt. After two early (somewhat questionable) fouls, the big man who apparently dreamed of Washington State (thanks Ehlo) played beautifully. He shot 18 times tonight, including seven from three-point land. Any other night I would say that he shot too many threes but I'm so happy right now that I don't really care. He finished with 22 points and was just exquisite.
Super sophomores Austin Daye and Steven Gray were fantastic tonight as well. Gray, who finished with 9 points, hit some clutch three pointers in the first half when it appeared that WSU was in control of the game. Austin Daye seemed flustered at the start of the game but settled in after a big three in the first half and never looked back. He showed some maturity and was really meshing well with the team. Junior Matt Bouldin had another solid game, especially (you guessed it) in the second half. He continues to play great basketball for this team and not relying on the outside shot to get baskets.
Is there a question about basketball supremacy in the state this year? Gonzaga continues to roll through a challenging non-conference schedule. Next up are the Arizona Wildcats which should be a much different style of game.
Congrats to Mark Few, the staff, and the team. It's another great night to be a Zag.