Gonzaga earns high praise from former assistant

Contributing writerFebruary 24, 2013 

SPOKANE — Mark Few and Bill Grier are close friends.

When Grier worked under Few at Gonzaga, Few hand-picked Grier to replace him if Few ever left the Bulldogs.

Few, still solidly entrenched at Gonzaga, placed friendship on the back burner long enough to orchestrate an 81-50 stomping of Grier’s San Diego Toreros on Saturday afternoon at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Grier, who spent 16 seasons at Gonzaga before taking over the San Diego program six years ago, said the current Bulldogs “could end up being the best team” in Gonzaga history.

“These guys do a really good job of executing their stuff,” Grier said. “They’re patient when they need to be. They get the ball to where they want it.”

The Bulldogs, who started the season 9-0, won a season-best 10th consecutive game to improve to 27-2.

Gonzaga, 14-0 in the West Coast Conference, clinched at least a tie for the regular-season championship with two games remaining.

“A lot of pieces are coming together right now,” Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk said. “Our defense has really started to hit its stride.”

Kevin Pangos led a balanced Gonzaga offense with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Olynyk added 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting, and he had nine rebounds and three blocked shots (but seven turnovers). Elias Harris was 5-for-7 shooting and scored 12 points.

Former Kentridge High School star Gary Bell Jr. was held to two points, but he helped limit San Diego star Johnny Dee to four points.

“He’s doing an unreal job on defense,” Olynyk said. “I didn’t notice Dee at all, really, that game.”

“I got a lot of help from the big guys ‘showing’ on the staggers and stuff,” Bell said. “So it wasn’t just me. It’s never just me. It’s always team defense.”

The Bulldogs pounded San Diego on the glass, 38-22, and shot 54.5 percent from the field. San Diego shot 35.7 percent.

“They’re a pretty damn good team,” San Diego center Chris Manresa summed up.

Manresa led San Diego with 19 points. He came away impressed with Olynyk, a 7-foot junior who is drawing consideration for All-America honors and the first round of the next NBA draft.

“He’s a talented kid … I was a bit shocked at some of the passes he was making out of the post,” Manresa said.

The Bulldogs had to rally to beat San Diego (13-16, 6-8), 65-63, on the road Feb. 2, but Gonzaga jumped on the Toreros early in the rematch and never let up. The standard sellout crowd of 6,000 at McCarthey was its usual festive self.

“We came out really flat,” Manresa said. “I’m not really sure why. Probably the crowd had something to do with it.”

Gonzaga visits BYU on Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN2).

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