Lewis-Clark St.-Gonzaga Preview

Fresh from winning a regular-season tournament title in Florida,
Gonzaga returns home for an opportunity to fine-tune some things
before its schedule turns difficult once again.

The No. 12 Bulldogs hope to maintain their focus when they host
NAIA school Lewis-Clark State College on Thursday night.

After winning its first three games in relatively easy fashion,
Gonzaga (6-0) was looking forward to being seriously challenged
during last week’s Old Spice Classic outside Orlando. Though the
Bulldogs trailed at halftime in their tournament opener, they shot
49.7 percent and dominated defensively while beating Clemson,
Oklahoma and Davidson by an average of 15.7 points to claim the
school’s second Old Spice championship.

“It was a really good week for us,” coach Mark Few said. “We got
tested in a variety of ways. Both with how the games flowed, but
also with the different schemes and matchups that we faced.”

Senior Elias Harris, who averaged 18.3 points to earn tournament
MVP honors, scored a season-high 24 on 9-of-11 shooting and pulled
down 10 rebounds in an 81-67 win over Davidson in Sunday’s final.
Kevin Pangos went 5 of 9 from 3-point range to finish with 23
points as the Bulldogs shot 55.1 percent, including 7 of 14 from
beyond the arc.

“They’ve got some terrific offensive firepower,” Davidson coach
Bob McKillop said. “They beat you at every spot. I thought they
defend very well, too.”

Few was more than satisfied with the way his team fared against
a Davidson squad that had allowed opponents to shoot 40.9 percent
before the championship contest.

“We knew it was going to be tough,” said Few, whose team held
its three tournament opponents to an average of 54.3 points on 33.1
percent shooting. “That’s just an unbelievably skilled team that is
tough as nails. That fights you on every possession. We had to
respond several different times to finally get it going in our
direction. I think that bodes well for us down the road here.”

While the Bulldogs are expected to have little trouble in
Thursday’s contest, they can draw on last week’s experience
starting Saturday when they begin a challenging four-game stretch
against future West Coast Conference member Pacific, Washington
State, No. 22 Illinois and Kansas State.

Though Thursday’s game counts toward Gonzaga’s overall record,
it’s an exhibition game for Idaho-based Lewis-Clark, which takes a
9-0 record to Spokane.

“It would be hard not to be happy with the way we’ve been
playing, and hopefully we can continue that on Thursday,” coach
Brandon Rinta told Lewis-Clark’s official athletics website. “We’re
going to approach the game the same way we do any other game, but
we want it to be a great experience for our players and our fans.
Hopefully we can enjoy the moment a little bit more.”

The Warriors are led by senior P.J. Bolte, who averages 19.3
points and 6.3 rebounds.

Harris had 19 points and nine rebounds in just 19 minutes in
Gonzaga’s 103-61 victory over Lewis-Clark on Dec. 16, 2010.