Crumpacker: What We Learned - 1/29/18
Dons Dance With Moral Victory And Other Conference Notes
By John Crumpacker #WCChoops Columnist
In absolute terms, a moral victory counts for just as much in the won-lost department as a demoralizing defeat. That is, it counts as a loss.
That brings us to San Francisco and how the Dons were almost Dandy when they played No. 15 Gonzaga on Saturday night at the McCarthey Center in Spokane. Coach Kyle Smith’s team fell behind by 19 points in the first half, staged an impressive rally and trailed by just four at halftime, 31-27.
USF played well for about the first 10 minutes of the second half, proving to be like a swarm of biting insects on the hide of a large, grazing beast. An irritant, an annoyance, if you will. The Dons tied the score at 45-45 and trailed by only 51-50 before Gonzaga started swinging its tail like a flyswatter and rolling in the mud to fend off the swarm.
The Dons closed to 74-71 on a 3-point shot by Frankie Ferrari but moments later, Gonzaga’s Johnathan Williams blocked a shot by Jordan Ratinho with 21 seconds left and the Zags went on to win 82-73, meaning USF is still winless in the Kennel, as in 29-0 since the McCarthey Center opened for business.
“It was a battle,’’ Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We had an awful dry spell in the first half. We got back on our heels.’’
Added guard Zach Norvell Jr. on the Dons, “They’re solid. That was a big part of it.’’
For a team barely above .500 to hang with a nationally-ranked opponent on the road counts as a moral victory. It just doesn’t count in the victory column. That’s how these things work.
“It was a really good college basketball game,’’ Smith said. “Both teams played at a high level offensively. We did a good job rebounding, especially on the defensive end. We had some chances. It was a good effort.’’
Noting his team hit on 9 of 18 shots from beyond the 3-point arc and got 26 points off the bench (which is really a line of individual chairs, but no matter), Smith said, “We were making shots. They’re usually really hard to score on and we were hitting our threes.’’
USF is a team with several sturdy spokes in search of a hub. Against Gonzaga, four Dons scored in double figures, with Ferrari and Ratinho each contributing 15, but the team lacks a true north star upon which to navigate.
Perhaps wiry guard Souley Boum (Goes the Dynamite) will be that north star. The freshman from Oakland has shown flashes of greatness this season but lacks consistency. That’s why coaches always say the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. Smith needs Boum to become the focal point of his team over the next two or three seasons.
At some point, USF needs to convert moral victories into actual victories. Aye, there’s the rub.
What We Learned
- A player to watch the rest of this season and in seasons to come is Loyola Marymount freshman Eli Scott. He’s a sturdily-built player, 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds, with good body control and strong moves to the basket, especially on the block. He had 18 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in LMU’s 89-82 loss to San Diego on Saturday. For the season he’s averaging 13.4 points per game and leads the Lions with 6.9 rebounds per.
- It's been noted before, but Gonzaga’s balanced scoring is remarkable. Six Zags average in double figures, all within 3.2 points of each other, to make opponents wonder where the focus of their defensive efforts should be. The answer is, everywhere. Johnathan Williams leads with 13.7 per game, followed by Josh Perkins (13.2), Killian Tillie (12.7), Zach Norvell Jr. (12.0), Rui Hachimura (11.2) and Silas Melson (10.5).
- USD has already won two more games (15) than it had all last season (13). The fact the Toreros are in the upper half of the conference, in fourth place at 15-5/6-4, shows the importance of an emphasis on defense and the two Isaiah’s, Pineiro and Wright. Coach Lamont Smith’s team contests everything and leads the conference in fewest points allowed per game (64.5), 3-point field goal percentage defense (.275) and blocked shots (4.3 per game). What that means is, when opponents realize they can’t fire at will from beyond the arc, they take the ball inside, where the team in powder blue is waiting to swat shots away. Not a bad formula.
As it happens, only two teams in the WCC (BYU, Pacific) do not have a foreign-born player on their roster. The other eight have players from 15 foreign countries, from Australia to Nigeria and points in between. In the spirit of inclusion and universality, we present the WCC’s All-International team for 2017-18. It’s light on guards and heavy on big men.
G – Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s/Australia
G – Josh McSwiggan, Portland/England
C – Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s/Australia
F – Killian Tillie, Gonzaga/France
F – Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga/Japan
Off the bench it’s Philipp Hartwich of Portland and Germany, Matt McCarthy of USF and Australia, Mattias Markusson of LMU and Sweden and Shaquille Walters of Santa Clara and England.
Stat Line of the Week
Close call on the SLOTW this week as several players turned in outstanding performances. The nod goes to San Diego’s Pineiro, who had a career-high 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting (8 of 9 from the free throw line) along with 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 block in the Toreros’ 89-82 win vs. LMU. Runner-up goes to BYU’s Elijah Bryant with another prodigious game: 28 points (shooting 8 of 9 from the field and the free throw line), 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block and 1 steal.
Quote of the Week
“I don’t like shooting them. It’s easier … to be on the block. I had a little bit of emotion afterward.’’
- That's Saint Mary’s Landale, who made his first 3-point shot of the season on Thursday night vs. BYU.
Tweet of the Week
When you reach 1000 career points, I guess you can rock a shirt of yourself. pic.twitter.com/jrzDAILXME
— Mike Stefansson (@SWXMike) January 28, 2018
Gonzaga’s senior guard joined the 1,000-point club last week and has a shirt to show for it.
Follow the three dots
How about that? LMU’s Steven Haney is a cousin of Magic Johnson. … At Pepperdine, Kameron Edwards will be joined next season by his brother, Kessler. … Apparently, there’s a correlation between assists and winning games as Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU, 1-2-3 in the standings, are also 1-2-3 in the conference in assists per game. The Gaels dish out 17.2, the Zags 17.1 and the Cougars 16.0. And then there’s that program best 16 straight win by Saint Mary’s. … Gonzaga is the only team in the WCC scoring better than 80 points per game (88.2). … No 90-percenter? No one in the conference is knocking them down 90 percent of the time from the free throw line but three players are close: BYU’s Bryant (.895), USD’s Tyler Williams (.889) and Gonzaga’s Hachimura (.877). … The WCC has some marksmen when it comes to the long ball. Calvin (Headband) Hermanson of Saint Mary’s leads in 3-point accuracy at .459, followed closely by Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross (.456), BYU’s Bryant (.450) and Portland’s McSwiggan (.444).