What is a three-letter word for "hustle"? The answer: Fox; Richard Fox. For a 6'11" goliath, Richard hustled like a 6' point guard. He dove for loose balls, rebounded, and chased after nearly every free ball during the Zags' exhibition victory over the Northwest All-Stars. Not only did he hustle, but he was nearly unstoppable down low. He scored baby-hooks, jump hooks, lay-ups, and jumpers. With Violette and Turiaf watching on the sidelines due to injuries, Fox and Gourde did all the dirty-work in the post. Gourde hit an array of moves, only Zach Gourde can do. He was solid throughout the game.
The game started out promising, with Tony Skinner hitting a huge three. From there on, it was a battle of tug-of-war. The All-Stars were unconscious, shooting an amazing 75% in the first half, while the Zags shot a woeful 31%. Tyler Amaya would get the fans wild again with a NBA-range three pointer after a long scoring drought. Dustin Villepigue would hit an early trey as well. Blake Stepp shared the point guard responsibilities with Josh Reisman, who did a very nice job of handling and distributing the ball. The Bulldogs appeared to be slow the first half, allowing the Northwest All-Stars to hit three after three, something Coach Mark Few and staff couldn't have been happy with. There were, at times, three freshmen playing at the same time--Reisman, Amaya, Villepigue. However, the half would end on a high note. With ten seconds on the clock, Blake taunted his defender by dribbling until the clock was down to five seconds. Then a quick stutter-step and Blake pulled up for a three at least five feet behind the arc. Swish, right at the buzzer!! What an encouraging sight to see; Blake having the confidence in himself, and his teammates having the confidence in him, to take the big shot! It was a page straight out of Dan Dickau's book.
Gonzaga led only by four points at the half and looked like they were in need of Winston, Ronny, and Cory.
After half-time the Zags were playing like a new team. The intensity just about doubled. The half was pretty much a highlight reel, especially of Tony Skinner. One play he collected an offensive board and kicked it back out to Kyle Bankhead (Kyle had an off-night shooting but hustled hard and played solid defense) for a monstrous three, the next he is streaking down the court for a one-handed jam (compliments of a Blake Stepp pass), and he hit more than one three pointer. The Bulldogs' defense was turned up a couple more notches as well. At one point, Blake picked an All-Star clean and passed it to Fox for a sweet finger-roll that shook The Kennel crowd. The All-Stars called Time-Out and Turiaf ran off the bench to midcourt to bear hug Fox. Stepp ran the point impressively, nearly recording a triple-double with 13 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes.
It was clear the Zags were in control the second half and were not going to look back. Amaya would, once again, get the party started by scoring two more three-pointers, going 3 for 3 from 3-point range. Tyler was very impressive. Few could put him in for either Bankhead or Skinner and not lose any advantage. To top off a great night of college basketball, Tyson Hunter from the Northwest All-Stars sank a half-court shot at the buzzer. The final score: Gonzaga 108, Northwest All-Stars 88.
In all, it was a very successful game for the Bulldogs. After struggling in the first-half, they came out and played like a top-25 basketball team should. Perhaps the most encouraging fact of the game was that the Zags were minus two possible starters in Winston Brooks and Cory Violette and minus their sixth man and emotional energizer, Ronny Turiaf (although he showed his enthusiasm even while sitting out the game!).
Red Lion BBQ's Player of the Game is Richard Fox with honorable mention to Tony Skinner. Fox had 26 points and 8 rebounds in his first game in over a year and a half. He picked up the slack for his fellow bigs who sat out and looked solid in every aspect of the game. Congralutions to Richard and Tony, the latter scoring 21 in his first game as a Zag.