Exhibition games are like previews before the movie. All the key pieces are in action, but are often misleading.
A person’s favorite actor may get ample screen time in the trailer, but only 10 minutes in the actual film, or maybe the plot ends up completely different from what was anticipated. Still, excited fans can’t help but get a little taste.
That’s exactly what it was like for spectators as Gonzaga annihilated Division II West Georgia 122-76 in the McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday.
The Zags likely won’t make a habit of scoring 122 points a game, or beating opponents by 46 points. Mark Few won’t put 13 players on the court in every contest, and multiple freshmen have potential to redshirt.
Still, some parts of the 2016-17 Gonzaga basketball trailer can’t be ignored.
Six players scored in double-digits and 11 players recorded at least one point. Nigel Williams-Goss led the Zags with 20 points, and Zach Norvell Jr. and Jordan Mathews added 18 apiece.
That balanced scoring attack, and depth is likely to be a theme of the season, just not to that scale.
“A lot of guys on this team can score, but it is all about sharing the ball and having the team rallied behind you,” Norvell said. “It is amazing playing on a team with this much depth, because you can give your all. You don’t have to play a ton of minutes because someone else is coming in who is just as good as you.”
Jonathan Williams had 14 points and 14 rebounds, a stat line similar to his double-double approaching numbers at Missouri, where he played before transferring to GU. In the 2014-15 season he averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.
“I thought J3 did a good job rebounding the ball tonight,” head coach Mark Few said. “I thought that was a really good sign for us.”
Williams was one of three big men who made a significant scoring impact for the Zags. Freshman Zach Collins scored 16 points, and Przemek Karnowski had 14 in his first game back from injury. Karnowski played just 12 minutes, which is typical for a starter in an exhibition game, but may also speak to how the start of his season will play out.
Karnowski played five games, averaging 8.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 24.8 minutes, before a back injury ended his season. Now Few will have to ease him back into action.
“The first thing with Przemek, we all have to take a step back and understand that he had major, major surgery and he really hadn’t done anything for nine months,” Few said prior to the game. “He’s very much a work in progress right now shape-wise, basketball timing-wise we’ve got to get that going.”
Karnowski is a familiar face on a new-looking GU team. The starting five consisted of the redshirt senior, junior Silas Melson, and three transfers who saw their first action in the McCarthey: Mathews, Williams and Williams-Goss.
“We’re definitely a work in progress here,” Few said. “… There are a lot of new faces, bodies out there that we’re just kind of trying to get all gelling together,”
So grab some popcorn, the main attraction is just getting started.
Few undecided on redshirts
When prompted after the game as to where the team was leaning toward redshirting anyone, Few was noncommittal with his answer.
“Right now we’re kind of looking all hands on deck,” he said,” but we’ll probably sit down and talk to some guys. Again, with injuries and being a little bit shorthanded right now in some spots with Jeremy (Jones) being out, I think everyone’s in the mix.”
With Norvell still recovering from a knee surgery around three months ago, and Jeremy Jones sidelined with a high ankle sprain, GU may need depth at its disposal in the interim.
There’s tons (of things to work on),” Few said. “I mean you can literally pinpoint every possession, and that’s to be expected for first time out. Literally every aspect of the game we’re going to have to get better at, they’re not going to be all easy like that. We’re going to have to shore up some things. A little bit more conviction on offense and play without fouling on defense.
The Zags face Utah Valley in their season opener on Friday at 6 p.m. The game can be found on KHQ/ROOT Sports and 1510 AM.