Men's Basketball Stops Eagles 74-65
Nov. 17, 2000
CHENEY, Wash. - Gonzaga University's men's basketball team opened the 2000-01 season Friday with a 74-65 non-conference win over Eastern Washington University in front of the third largest crowd in Reese Court history of 5,256, many of them ardent Bulldog fans.
In beating EWU for the 14th straight time and for the 20th time in the last 21 meetings, the Bulldogs saw the Eagles chip away at a 25-point second-half Bulldog lead to cut the final margin to 9 with :44 remaining.
Gonzaga got a big night from senior forward Casey Calvary, who scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The 24 points were shy of his career-high 28 scored in last year's West Coast Conference Tournament title-game win over Pepperdine University. Point guard Dan Dickau, making his Gonzaga debut after redshirting last season following his transfer from the University of Washington, scored 13 points and had 5 assists before fouling out with 4:27 to play.
Second-year Bulldog head coach Mark Few said the Bulldogs should be pleased of the road victory, but not with any individual or team efforts.
"You never turn down a win. As I told the kids in the lockerroom, when you walk out hold your heads high and feel good because you won the game. As long as they keep scores in these deals, that's what it's all about. But, we need to understand that's an unacceptable performance by our club. It's very uncharacteristic the way we lost composure down the stretch. We did everything you could do to let them back into the game - turnovers, we didn't run the offense, we didn't make free throws and we let ourselves down on the defensive end by giving them easy looks down there. To their (EWU's) credit they showed great character to stay with the game. They dang near stole it," Few said.
Few said there were some bright moments, but they were largely overshadowed by the poor execution the Bulldogs displayed late in the second half.
"I was happy with our approach, but I wasn't happy with our execution and composure. And that was just a seven minute phase, a little bit in the first half and then about a five minute stretch in the second half. What we want to take out of this is the 10-minute stretch in the second half where we executed well, we got the ball to Casey on several occasions when we needed to and he was able to finish plays. We also made them take some pretty tough shots at the other end," Few said.
Gonzaga built a 40-25 halftime lead on the strength of a 14-for-24 half from the field for 58.3 percent while the Eagles were hitting just 10-of-27 for 37.0 percent. The Bulldogs also hit 5-of-10 3-pointers in the first half and 7-of-15 free throws.
The Bulldogs came out firing in the second half, holding the Eagles to just a 3-pointer by Aaron Olson in the first 5:58 of the half. And Olson's shot came just :24 into the stanza as the Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run sandwiched between EWU 3-pointers. Calvary had 6 of Gonzaga's first 14 points of the second half, and then had three dunks in a 4:00 span as Gonzaga upped to lead to 63-40 with 9:40 remaining.
But after the lead bulged to 65-40 on a pair of Dickau free throws the Eagles began to chip away, the Bulldogs made some bad clock decisions on successive possessions with under 4:00 to play and Gonzaga hit just 3-of-10 free throws in the final 8:00 on the way to a 7-for-17 second half from the line. Gonzaga finished 14-of-32 from the line for 43.8 percent.
The game was the EWU head coaching debut of Ray Giacoletti, a close friend of Few's.
"We've been talking all along, but we've been dreading this game all along," Few said of the personal coaching matchup.
The Bulldogs, who graduated five seniors, including four starters, off last year's NCAA Sweet 16 team, had freshman Blake Stepp, JC transfer Alex Hernandez as Dickau joining senior veterans Calvary and Mark Spink in the starting lineup. Plus, Few came off the bench with redshirt freshman Kyle Bankhead, JC transfer Anthony Reason and true freshman Cory Violette who had never played a Division I game. But Few wasn't letting the inexperience or youth act as an excuse.
"I'm expecting us to play Gonzaga basketball. For stretches we did. For stretches we didn't. Regardless of their age, regardless of their inexperience, they've already shown they can do it. They've shown it in the exhibitions., and they've shown it in practice. That's out of our system now, and we need to step up and get back to play the way we're capable. Eastern was responsible for a lot of that. Their defensive pressure was relentless. It was pretty much relentless for 38 minutes. To their credit, they took us out of a lot of things we are usually able to do."
Gonzaga returns to action Sunday in the home opener at 2 p.m. in The Kennel against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The Phoenix opened the season Friday with a 62-50 win at the University of Idaho.
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