Unbeaten Gonzaga, Illinois clash

  • By Jim Meehan The Spokesman-Review
  • Friday, December 7, 2012 11:53pm
  • SportsSports

SPOKANE — First things first.

Gonzaga is 9-0 for the first time as a Division I men’s basketball program. GU won its first road game of the season Wednesday, edging Washington State 71-69. The Bulldogs now face their first ranked opponent when No. 13 Illinois visits the McCarthey Athletic Center tonight.

First impressions?

“We’ve had a great series of games with them,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who teams are 1-2 versus the Illini the past three seasons. “I had a chance to watch them in Maui and they looked unbelievable over there. They can really shoot it, they’re athletic and can apply a lot of pressure.”

“The word that comes to me is well-rounded,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “I watch them and I just don’t know if they have a weakness.”

After Wednesday’s games, just 18 Division I teams have zeroes in the loss column. In their most recent outings, the 10th-ranked Bulldogs (9-0) weren’t sharp against WSU and the Illini (9-0) pulled away late to defeat Western Carolina (3-6).

This isn’t the first time these teams have squared off as unbeatens. Gonzaga dropped its first game and Illinois improved to 8-0 with an 82-75 win last season in Champaign, Ill. Illinois hired Groce after the 2012 team lost 12 of its last 14 under former coach Bruce Weber.

“The biggest thing was to create a culture of toughness and togetherness,” Groce said. “I certainly felt like we took a step backward (against Western Carolina) in that regard, but that’s been our calling card.”

The Illini made at least 10 3-pointers in their first six games and buried 14 against Georgia Tech, the most in a game since 2005. They lead the nation in 3s made (97) and 3s per game (10.8). Gonzaga was outstanding defending 3-pointers in its first six games, but its last three foes (Lewis-Clark State, Pacific and WSU) have combined to go 28-for-68 (41.2 percent).

Senior guards Brandon Paul (17.8 points-per-game average) and D.J. Richardson (12.3) have combined for 48 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Tracy Abrams (11.3 points) and senior forward Tyler Griffey (10.4 ppg, 51.5 percent 3-pointers) also average in double figures.

Paul and Richardson teamed up for five 3s, 32 points, six rebounds and six assists in last year’s win over Gonzaga. Center Meyers Leonard, now with the Portland Trail Blazers, had 21 points.

“They were really strong guards, they’re one year more experienced and their team revolves around them more this year,” said Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos, who hit the game-winner versus WSU with 2.2 seconds remaining. “We’ll game plan for them. It should be a fun game.”

More in Sports

Who are the top 15 Everett Silvertips of all-time?

Herald columnist Nick Patterson makes his choices

Best of the Mariners poll, part eight: Left fielders

Cast your vote for the best-ever season by a Seattle Mariners left fielder.

FC Dallas shuts out the Sounders 3-0 in MLS action

Seattle has yet to score a goal in its two MLS contests

Best of the Mariners poll, part seven: Shortstops

Cast your vote for the best-ever season by a Seattle Mariners shortstop.

The Herald’s 2018 all-area boys basketball teams

A look at the top boys basketball players in the area this past season.

Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Carson Tuttle

Kamiak’s senior point guard is the area’s top player for the 2nd straight season.

Back in the Sweet 16: Gonzaga beat Ohio State

Zach Norvell Jr. scores 28 points as the Bulldogs beat the Buckeyes 90-84 to advance.

Silvertips rout Royals 8-1, clinch 2nd straight U.S. title

Everett secures the Western Conference’s top seed for the playoffs and will face Seattle in the 1st round.

Seahawks add wide receiver, safety from division rivals

Jaron Brown, Maurice Alexander sign with Seattle.

Most Read