By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen

Gonzaga and myself rolled into Moraga, California Thursday night in what is hyped almost every season as the game of the year in the West Coast Conference (WCC).  Gonzaga walked in ranked #5 in the country while St. Mary’s was on a nine game winning streak.  It was an incredibly physical battle all the way through but Gonzaga, with better shooting and a little less sloppy play pulled away at the end 77-60. Here are some notes from the game that featured ten international players.

General Game Notes

– St Mary’s International Guys: Matthew Dellavedova (Australia), Jordan Page (Australia), Mitchell Young (Australia), Matt Hodgson (Australia), Eividas Petrulis (Lithuania).

– Gonzaga International Guys: Kelly Olynyk (Canada), Kevin Pangos (Canada), Przemek Karnowski (Poland), Elias Harris (Germany), Guy Landry Edi (Ivory Coast).

– Diving head-first for loose balls, everyone crashing the boards, constant pushing on the perimeter.  It was an insanely physical game and the refs swallowed the whistles for most of it.  For the “let the players play” people, this was the game for you.

– Tons and tons of pick and rolls, almost every player on the court could make a jumper, and the ball movement was really quick.  The teams seemed better because of how all the parts added up, especially St. Mary’s, not necessarily how people stacked up individually.  Really, seriously, game planned, offensive and defensive systems were going on; a game very much controlled by the coaching.  It’s as close as college can get to the international game.

– In such a physical game St. Mary’s shot five free throws and Gonzaga 24. Seems odd it wouldn’t be much more even with both teams scrumming.

– St. Mary’s is an incredible spacing and shooting team, ninth in the country in FG %. Gonzaga is just a little bit better at it though, as they’re second in  the country in FG %.  Tonight Gonzaga shot 50% from the field and 52.9% from three.  St Mary’s shot 39.7% from the field and 34.3% from three.  Biggest difference in the game right there.

Dellavadova couldn’t put St. Mary’s on his back completely

Matthew Dellavedova was amazing.  He was 6-12 for deep but that includes some desperate shots late.  Of those six three’s, he had one, two, or three hands in his face on almost all of them.  His first half (19 points) was magical and completely kept St. Mary’s in the game.  No college team leans on more one player more than St. Mary’s does on Delly.

– Gonzaga threw 6’6″ Mike Hart on Dellavedova whenever Hart was in the game.  As one of the best and most active defenders in the country Hart drew charges on Dellavedova and hounded him all game long.  Turned everything Dellavedova did into a choir.

– St. Mary’s comes back on shooting,  When Delly penetrates shooters need to be ready.  Tonight they got a lot of open looks but I bet few teams in the country close out on shooters like Gonzaga does.  They torpedo towards guys that catch on the perimeter.

– Power Forward Beau Levesque is St. Mary’s swing man, he changes the game with his energy.  Good stretch big who can slash but had trouble bodying Elias Harris in the post.  As a junior he’s having a breakout season and looks like a good fit for a career in Europe.

Gonzaga can pass and shoot all day long

– Gonzaga goes ten deep but everything evolves around Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk.  Their offensive skills and feathery strokes keep the defense constantly keyed on them.  Talk about an inside-out duo for future Canadian National Teams.

– Every team in the country would like Mike Hart.  Defends hard, only shoots when incredibly open, good passer, and one of those guys that when chaos ensues, he always seems to end up with the ball.  Unofficial rumor is Xavi Pascual already has his rights.

– Kelly Olynyk was involved in all four of Gonzaga’s first offensive possessions: he was blocked, then swished a trey, then posted up for a layup, and tipped in a missed shot. It was seven real quick points, showed off different parts of his arsenal, and put his foot down immediately that this would be a long night for St. Mary’s bigs on defense.  He finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal.  Simply way too skilled and smoothed for almost anyone to play on defense at this level.  His weakness is that he forces it and travels when he gets moving too quickly at his size, defense needs to find a way to turn that into a strength for them.

– Kevin Pangos is solid and explosive at the same time.  He played 37 minutes and had zero turnovers.  Add that to 18 points, six rebounds, and three assists.  He controlled everything for Gonzaga and always knew when to push the lever on the fast break or slow it down and work through some half court offense.  A true point guard in every sense.

– German Elias Harris does a lot of things well, post ups, rebounds, can shoot a little, active on defense, makes himself available for passes often, and fights for loose balls.  But he really didn’t assert himself too much offensively tonight, just on a few post-ups, and he wasn’t able to score much on those.  Finished with seven points and nine boards.

– The freshman Polish center Przemek Karnowski only got three minutes, all in the first half but he was very impactful in his time on the court.  Here are three notes that came off strikingly about his game: 1. He gets his hands or secures almost every defensive rebound.  He’s always right in the thick of it. 2. Fights hard for post position on the block, sometimes gets his man backed down so deep he’s under the hoop. 3. Knows how to space off a driver.  When Pangos or a Gonzaga wings drove, Karnowski moved quickly to open areas for easy mid-range kick-outs or set himself up for an open lane to crash the offensive glass.