SPOKANE – Rex Walters, the former NBA player who coaches the San Francisco Dons, said Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk only played “OK” on Saturday.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean Walters is any less certain that Olynyk could be one of the 14 players drafted in the lottery portion of the first round of an upcoming NBA draft.
“He’s a lottery pick,” Walters said. “That’s what he is. I really believe that. It’s the first time I’ve ever said that about a West Coast Conference player.”
Olynyk played only 22 minutes in No. 10 Gonzaga’s 66-52 romp, but the junior forward still managed to score a game-high 13 points and grab eight rebounds. He also teamed up with Elias Harris to hold USF scoring leader Cole Dickerson scoreless on 0-for-4 shooting.
Dickerson, the former Federal Way High School standout, declined an interview request after playing 16 minutes and fouling out. Walters said there was no mystery behind Dickerson’s tough night.
“He’s going against a lottery pick,” Walters said with a weary grin.
Dickerson and the rest of the senior-less Dons were doomed when they were outscored 22-2 in the final 8 minutes, 16 seconds of the first half. That ballooned Gonzaga’s lead from 21-19 to 43-21, and the Dons had to take advantage of the Zags’ reserves down the stretch to make the score somewhat respectable.
“Our quality of shots went down the second 10 minutes of that first half,” Walters said. “The guys pushed the panic button again. I didn’t do a good enough job to help them understand there’s no need to push the panic button.”
The Dons (9-12, 2-6 WCC), who start two freshmen, had won two consecutive games after opening WCC play with five losses. The first-place Bulldogs (19-2, 6-0), meanwhile, continue to roll.
“We really worked together, played as a team,” Harris said. “We played team defense again. We rebounded as a team.
“It’s just working right now. Everything’s clicking.”
Harris, a senior forward, is one of the leading scorers and rebounders in Gonzaga history. Walters said Harris has “high-level pro” potential, but it is Olynyk whom NBA scouts are swooning over, and Walters took time to chat with Olynyk after the game.
“He said, ‘Keep up the good work, you’re going to have a long career in this game and be able to make some money,’” said Olynyk, who has not ruled out turning pro after the season. “It was a nice comment. I appreciated it.”
Harris had 12 points and 11 rebounds in 29 efficient minutes. Point guard Kevin Pangos added 11 points, all in the first half. Chris Adams led USF with nine points.
The Bulldogs, second in the nation coming into the day with 51.4 percent shooting from the floor, made 44.8 percent of their shots and held USF to 39.2 percent. Gonzaga had about half as many turnovers (8-15) and nearly twice as many assists (15-8) as San Francisco.
“I thought we played 30 good minutes of basketball,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who was not pleased with the loose play of reserves in the final minutes. “We did a great job on the defensive end again.”
The Dons have lost 24 games in a row at Gonzaga, last winning on Feb. 10, 1989. Interestingly, USF has won three home games in a row against the Bulldogs.
Saturday’s game was part of Coaches vs. Cancer Week in the region. Few, Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd and their wives have helped raise approximately $6 million for Coaches vs. Cancer since 2002.