Balanced Attack Leads No. 16 Zags Past St. Mary's
Jan 18, 2004
By TIM KORTE
SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga coach Mark Few wasn't surprised the Bulldogs got a test from St. Mary's. The Zags, though, are just too talented for even the best teams in their own conference.
"They're a very talented team," Few said. "They can shoot the 3. They've got some real skilled big guys, but we did a good job. Even if we didn't play our A-game, we just kept sawing wood and sawing wood. We wore them down."
The Bulldogs (14-2, 4-0 West Coast Conference) won their seventh in a row and extended their winning streak over St. Mary's (10-7, 1-1) to 15.
The Gaels played tough all night, trimming the deficit to 66-61 with 3:30 to play on an inside basket by Frederic Adjiwanou. Gonzaga, though, just has too many big-time players.
Stepp scored seven straight points, including a big 3-pointer. Then Violette, who also had 13 rebounds, slammed home an off-the-mark shot by Adam Morrison to make it 75-61 with 1:39 remaining.
"They played physical on the perimeter," Few said. "There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat. They chose to stay out on our shooters. It provided some opportunities for Ronny and Cory down low."
It was tied at 48 with 12? minutes to go when the Zags started to run away.
Violette scored the first three baskets and had eight points during a 14-3 burst that ended when Derek Ravio hit a 3-pointer to make it 62-51, forcing a St. Mary's timeout with 7:30 to go.
"We know how to win," Few said. "We've been in a lot of big games. We know what to do. We didn't panic. If we missed a shot here or a shot there, our defense got better as the second half wore on."
Stepp was battling the flu and scored only one point in the first half, but he finished with an impressive line: 16 points, nine assists, seven rebounds with only one turnover in 37 minutes.
"Blake's the most awesome point guard in the country," Violette said. "He's always looking for his guys. Anytime you've got an unselfish player like that, and at the same time a guy who knows how to score, he's tough."
It seemed fitting the Gaels would give Gonzaga a big challenge since WCC coaches picked St. Mary's in a preseason poll as the biggest threat to the Bulldogs.
"St. Mary's is a high-quality team," Violette said. "They're going to sneak up on some people in our conference, I guarantee you. They've got some shooters, some athletes."
Paul Marigney, who scored 30 points as St. Mary's beat Portland on Thursday night, led the Gaels with 20 points. Daniel Kickert scored 14 and Adjiwanou finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett wanted to limit Gonzaga's perimeter shooting and outrebound the Bulldogs. While the Zags went 5-for-15 from 3-point range, they enjoyed a 47-36 rebounding advantage.
"Late in the second half, we didn't hit anything," Bennett said. "The No. 1 thing that beat us was they beat us on the boards."
The Bulldogs had outscored their last four opponents at home by an average of 33 points, and Gonzaga seemed poised to blow another team out of its noisy gym with a 17-2 run midway through the first half that put the Zags up 21-9.
It became apparent things would be different this time when the Gaels closed the first half with a 12-3 run to trail 35-32 at the break.
"St. Mary's is a good team, and everybody wants a piece of us," Turiaf said. "Everybody wants to beat Gonzaga. Everybody that comes to play against us, we're going to get their A-game."
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