SPOKANE — It may have been just a tune-up, at least officially, but that didn’t make it any less meaningful. Just ask the visitors from Canada who had to play against a collection of Zags anxious to start a new season.
Employing a well-balanced attack, the Gonzaga University men’s basketball team coasted to a 103-68 triumph over Simon Fraser University on Friday night in an exhibition game at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“It was a good first night,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, “especially for some of those new guys who do need to play.”
Gerard Coleman was one of those players making their Gonzaga debuts. After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, the redshirt junior made all seven of his shot attempts en route to 16 points. He also added five rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
“I feel like crying tears of joy because the monkey is off my back,” said Coleman, who transferred to GU from Providence. “It was just great to be out there. I can’t even put it in words, especially when you love the game so much and, for a whole year, you’re not playing. I’m glad I’m back.”
The Bulldogs also benefited from impressive performances by a few familiar faces, namely Sam Dower, Jr. The senior post tallied 20 points and 12 rebounds, both game highs, in just 24 minutes.
“Sam is in a good place right,” Few said. “He’s going to get an extended run, so he’s going to have more opportunities than he’s had in the past and I think his numbers will reflect that.”
Dower teamed with Przemek Karnowski to dominate the paint, an encouraging sign considering they must replace significant voids left by Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, now in the NBA. A fit-and-trim Karnowski chipped in 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks to go with excellent defense against Simon Fraser’s top scorer, David Gebru. The Clan big man finished with 14 points, but made just five of his 17 shot attempts before fouling out.
“I don’t know what his weight is,” Few said of Karnowski. “But he’s in great shape — much, much better shape. I think Sam and him are taking baby steps with the rebounds. The numbers are better, but I still thought there were some other opportunities for them to get in there and clean them up.”
Gonzaga did outrebound Simon Fraser, an NCAA Division II school from Burnaby, B.C., 51-33. The Zags also held the Clan scoreless for the first seven-plus minutes of the game while zipping to a 15-0 lead. The margin ballooned to as much as 40 late in the second half.
In addition to the play of Dower and Karnowski, Few also seemed pleased with the performance of another frontcourt player, Ryan Edwards. The freshman center finished with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
“I thought he did a nice job,” Few said. “He finished plays at the basket, scored with both hands, plugged the lane decent. He was like that the first week of practice and then he tailed off considerably these last few weeks, so it was nice to see. We may need him to play some minutes.”
Even though they were not hitting the 3-point shot consistently against Simon Fraser, the Bulldogs still shot 62 percent from the field. The Clan, by comparison, shot just 30 percent. They also made the Zags defend on the perimeter by hoisting 36 attempts from behind the arc.
Thirteen Bulldogs saw action Friday night, with nine of them playing at least 14 minutes and no one logging more than 24. All but two players found the scoring column.
“By and large, it was good,” Few said. “We’ll have to watch the tape on it and pull some things off of there, but for the most part, we did a good job.”
The Bulldogs, coming off a record-breaking season where they went 32-3 and reached No. 1 in the national polls, officially open the 2013-14 campaign Saturday, Nov. 9, against Bryant University. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m.