Gonzaga Preview

It's been marked on your calendar since the matchup was announced many months ago. Stanford fans are still stinging from the L to the Zags in the 1999 NCAA tournament, but the here and now of Cardinal hoops makes this a big game for this team. Gone are Matt Santangelo, Casey Calvary and Dan Dickau, so you'd best get familiar with the latest faces from Spokane.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs enter their Pete Newell Challenge game with the Stanford Cardinal hoping that they’ve caught up on their sleep, put first semester tests behind them, and recovered from jet lag after a grueling finals week swing to Atlanta to play Georgia in the Peach Bowl Classic and to New Jersey to take on North Carolina State in the Jimmy V Classic.

The Zags split the two games on their transcontinental road trip, losing to Georgia 95-83 after floundering offensively in the first half, then beating previously undefeated NC State 69-60, largely on the strength of a 17 rebound effort by junior transfer Richard Fox. Gonzaga finished off a four-games-in-8-days marathon by throttling Long Beach State 90-55 in the Kennel last Friday, then came from 17 down in the second half to defeat Big Sky favorite Eastern Washington 67-64 in a Sunday afternoon game at the Spokane Arena.

GU is 8-3 on the season, the losses coming at the hands of Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia. GU has wins over Pac-10 opponents Washington and Washington State. Gonzaga and Stanford have played one common opponent, the University of Montana. The Bulldogs knocked off the Grizzlies on their homecourt, 75-67, back on December 5.

While Gonzaga’s rise to prominence has been largely due to a string of excellent guards (Matt Santangelo, Quentin Hall, Richie Frahm, first team All-American Dan Dickau), this year’s edition of the Zags is big and deep in the paint, reminiscent of Stanford’s Tim Young/Mark Madsen teams in the late ‘90’s. Gonzaga’s 4-man front line rotation is comprised of junior Richard Fox (6’11”, 289), fifth-year senior Zach Gourde (6’8”, 249), junior Cory Violette (6’8”, 255), and sophomore Ronny Turiaf (6’10”, 249). JC transfer Tony Skinner (6’5”, 195) starts at the wing and the starting backcourt is made up of junior Blake Stepp and senior Winston Brooks.

Junior combo guard Blake Stepp runs the show in the Zag offense. Stepp averaged 29.2 pts per game in wins over Washington, Montana and Washington State during the first week of December. Stepp’s scoring prowess in those games caused coaches to rethink their defensive approach, Georgia, NC State, Long Beach and Eastern Washington all focused on making Stepp the object of their teams’ best perimeter defenders. Long Beach coach Larry Reynolds decided to have his guards stick closely to Stepp all over the court. Stepp scored only 5 points against the Beach, but dished out 16 assists to break the Gonzaga single game record held jointly by John Stockton and Matt Santangelo.

Sophomore forward Ronny Turiaf has been Gonzaga’s sixth-man spark off the bench. Turiaf has been the Zags’ leading scorer in 6 games this year, with a season high 24 points against Indiana in the Maui Classic. A native of Martinique and veteran of the French under-20 national team, Turiaf was named to the Maui Classic all-tournament team.

Gonzaga has played Stanford twice, beating the Cardinal in a 1994 first round NIT game at Maples and in a 1999 NCAA second round match at Key Arena in Seattle. Stanford has never lost in its five Newell Challenge appearances. Somebody’s perfect record is going to end on Saturday afternoon.

Individual Statistics

Season Averages
NAME

GMS 

MIN

PTS

REB 

AST

TO

A/T

STL

BLK

PF

FG%

FT%

3P%

PPS

Ronny Turiaf

11

25.3

17.3

5.7

0.5

1.9

1/4.2

0.3

1.5

3.0

.516

.752

.333

2.00

Blake Stepp

11

35.7

16.5

4.3

6.7

4.2

1.6/1

1.8

0.0

2.3

.436

.815

.391

1.56

Cory Violette

11

26.0

11.6

7.9

0.5

1.6

1/3

0.6

1.0

2.7

.500

.629

.250

1.23

Tony Skinner

11

26.0

9.4

3.7

1.1

1.5

1/1.4

1.1

0.0

2.5

.429

.714

.378

1.34

Kyle Bankhead

11

25.5

8.5

2.9

1.7

0.6

2.7/1

0.3

0.1

1.2

.492

.708

.400

1.58

Richard Fox

11

14.5

6.3

4.2

1.5

1.1

1.4/1

0.2

0.4

1.9

.588

.562

.000

1.35

Zach Gourde

11

15.7

4.2

2.8

0.5

1.1

1/2.4

0.5

0.2

2.3

.375

.667

.000

0.96

Winston Brooks

11

25.6

2.9

2.5

3.0

2.3

1.3/1

0.5

0.0

1.6

.407

.700

.333

1.19

Josh Reisman

9

7.2

2.8

0.8

0.4

0.7

1/1.5

0.6

0.0

0.7

.588

.750

.333

1.47

Brian Michaelson

2

4.0

2.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

-

0.0

0.0

0.0

1.000

.000

.000

2.00

Tyler Amaya

7

4.9

0.6

0.3

0.1

0.4

1/3

0.0

0.0

0.1

.250

1.000

.000

1.00

Dustin Villepigue

1

2.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

-

0.0

0.0

2.0

.000

.000

.000

-

Colin Floyd

2

1.5

0.0

0.5

0.0

0.0

-

0.0

0.0

0.0

.000

.000

.000

-

Team Averages

11

-

79.6

38.3

16.0

15.5

1/1

5.7

3.2

18.4

.475

.731

.370

1.46


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