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Friday night's exhibition between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Emporia State Hornets could have been seen as two tests by fans who attended. The first test being a glimpse into the ability of a young Gonzaga squad as they took on their first outside competition. The other test was how the McCarthey Athletic Center's court would stack up to the raucous nights in the old Kennel.
From the onset, it was clear that the new Kennel (K2) was going to live up to the legend of its predecessor. The Kennel Club, clad in red, turned around and starting chanting "G-O-N-Z-A-G-A Go Gonzaga!" as the starters for Emporia State were being announced. Despite it only being an exhibition game, K2 was rocking. Students yelled personalized messages towards certain Hornets, stomped on the bleachers to make K2 shake, strummed on the back of the chairs to divert a shooter's attention, and even held a member over their heads, throwing him up and down. The Kennel Club proved that the McCarthey Athletic Center can live up to its intimidating legacy.
Gonzaga started both its seniors, Brian Michaelson and Ronny Turiaf, who were supported by a younger cast of Erroll Knight, Sean Mallon, and Derek Raivio. The Zags started slow, making sloppy errors which Emporia State capitalized on. The two teams remained neck and neck for the opening minutes and it appeared that the Hornets wouldn't let the Bulldogs brush them off so easily. Emporia State had no real height, so Ronny took early advantage of that fact. Not only did he make strong post moves, but he also pulled up for several smooth jumpers and even knocked down a three.
After their sluggish start, the Bulldogs began to click. The Zags got down to business on both ends, tightening down defensively, snatching up rebounds, and skidding across the floor for loose balls while running the offense with discipline. The height advantage for the Bulldogs was capitalized on by pounding the ball down low. If the post was double-teamed, as it so often was, the Zags' big men kicked it out for an open trey. This combo proved deadly. Both Mallon and Turiaf acted like machines. Turiaf was relentless on the glass and scored 23 points, while Mallon had a career night. Each of his moves was strong to the hoop, allowing him to rack up a career-high 30 points for the night. Mallon also led Gonzaga in rebounds with nine. J.P. Batista wasn't able to play because of an eligibility issue.
Gonzaga's wings distributed the ball effectively and knocked down trey after trey. In the first half alone the Zags' guards had made eight three-pointers. Raivio ran the point with the confidence of a veteran. His handles never failed him, his ability to find the open man rarely faltered, and his three was falling. Raivio finished the evening with 13 points and 7 assists. Fans also had their eyes on Texas-Tech transfer, junior Nathan Doudney. Undoubtedly, his first game as a Zag was impressive. Doudney couldn't miss from beyond the arc, going 5 for 7 from three-point territory, and was a steady presence on the court. Nathan tallied 16 points for the night. Adam Morrison picked up where he ended last season, working hard on both the defensive and offensive end. His shooting stroke was as reliable as ever, scoring 18 points. But Morrison also added another dimension to his game against the Hornets, finding the open man. He led Gonzaga in assists with eight. Erroll Knight's play was also similar to last year's. His defense was stifling, helping to slow down Emporia State's lightning quick guards, while he looked for the open man before taking a shot on the offensive end. In one play, a Hornet broke loose and was ready to throw-down a slam, but Erroll skied above him and blocked the attempt, eye-high at the rim. Despite being whistled for the foul, Knight's play ignited the fans.
With the Gonzaga offense clicking, Emporia State quickly fell behind and could never catch up. The Zags let off the gas and the Hornets did light the Zags up from the three, going 15 for 27. Defense will need to improve. But not even their shooting could stop the Bulldogs. After leading by more than 40, Gonzaga went on to win, 114-86.